The great structure glinted in the sunshine as I walked across the bridge over the Serpentine. The sight of the huge floating pyramid in the lake in the centre of Hyde Park was impressive. A towering colourful, confident 600-ton pyramid comprised of row upon row of 55-gallon barrels seemed incongruous in the park setting. And I loved it.
The pyramid is the work of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude and is their London Mastaba - an ancient and familiar shape in Islamic architecture. I learned more about their work in a recent, excellent BBC4 documentary, about their far-fetched ideas and crazy dreams. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were artists married to each other. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 and Christo honoured his wife’s vital contribution to their collaboration by incorporating her name into his.
This London Mastaba is a scaled-down version of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s concept for the Abu Dhabi Mustaba, which was conceived in 1977 but never came to fruition. For Christo then, the London version is “a dream come true” to see it happen. The artists’ work has always been about defying the odds. In 1976, they boldly erected 46 miles of Running Fence in Northern California. In 1995 they wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in more than a million square feet of fabric. That crazy dream took 23 years to come into being.
Last week I told the artists’ story during a presentation to students at USP College in Essex. I was there to give career advice to students who wanted to work in the creative industries. I told them the importance of hanging onto their crazy dreams.
And on stage, I related my own crazy dream. That I’d grown up in a household with no TV set. How that had nurtured a love of radio and that getting a miniature transistor radio as a kid fuelled my ambition to work in broadcasting. My parents suggested I choose a more sensible career. My headmaster at school recommended I should forget the idea of pursuing a career in broadcasting as it would be too competitive.
At the time, the thought of working in broadcasting felt like a crazy dream, because I had no idea how to make it happen. But I didn’t give up on it. I truly believed it would happen. So I decided to ignore my headmaster’s advice. A few months later I got my lucky break when a BBC local radio station was launched in my home county. After a gruelling interview process, I got a voluntary role working on a Saturday night show, doing the gig guide, conducting interviews. I was in! After university, I went to work in music television.
My crazy dream had come true.
The trouble with crazy dreams is that people around us say they’ll never happen. They either don’t have the vision, or worry what’ll it’ll be like when we get disappointed, or they are even fearful of our success. But our crazy dreams are like beacons. They give us something to head towards and motivate us to try. Such dreams are what fuel entrepreneurs and innovators to make their ideas happen.
Back at the college auditorium, I asked students to share their own crazy dreams. I heard about dreams to become a fashion stylist, a TV make-up artist, a singer, a games developer. I didn’t tell the students that their dreams were unrealistic. I told them that you never know what might be possible if you set your heart on it. If you work hard and persevere.
But of course, crazy dreams are not just the stuff of kids and teenagers. You’re never too old to have a dream to pull off a new career or life goal or ambition. And if in doubt look at the man behind the Mastaba. He’s 83 and still dreaming up his next radical idea. And I bet you he’ll make it happen.
What are you going to do with your crazy dreams?