This book began life as a result of a chance encounter, at Heathrow airport, in 2010, with Sir Ken Robinson. I’ve known Ken for a long time – we worked together to establish the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in the 1990s – and he was particularly supportive when, in 2000, I decided to work for myself. While we waited in Terminal 5, he asked what work I had coming up, I listed a number of projects, and then sheepishly added, ‘and then I want to finally see if I’ve got a book in me’. Ken’s reply – ‘I think you’ve got a lot more than one inside you’ – was the spur I needed to get started, and has stayed with me to this day.

That was nearly three years ago. In the intervening period, there were a couple of moments when I was drowning under piles of research and couldn’t see a way through. Ken’s advice, “Don’t leave it too long before you start writing,” got me going again. 

The bulk of the first draft was written in Australia during a sabbatical in 2011-12. I foolishly thought I’d have the whole thing finished by the middle of 2012. I learned two valuable lessons there that I pass on here to any aspiring writers. First, if you’re blocking out a period of time to do some concentrated writing, then write. Don’t get distracted by other work or diversionary tactics, like playing golf. Second, don’t go to places that are abundant in their distractions, like Australia.

The realisation that this was going to take longer than I’d first thought, allowed me time to get some early feedback. I cannot begin to thank enough the friends who provided early critique and confidence-building: my lifelong friend Tom Kelly (who showed me how to tell stories); Mark Moorhouse (who gave me my opening paragraphs), Valerie Hannon, (who rigorously challenged some of my ideas); Rob Riordan and David Jackson (who reassured me that there would be an audience for the book, after all). I needed kind, specific and helpful feedback and they freely gave it. Later drafts were read by Mark Stevenson, to whom I owe multiple thanks since he introduced me to my agent, Charlie Viney, and provided inspiring avenues of hope through his book, An Optimist’s Tour of The Future; and Bill Williamson (co-author of From Exam Factories to Communities of Discovery). 

All of these people helped move me on from periodic loss of confidence to one more draft. The person who has followed the process from start to finish, however, has been my wife, Clare. She put up with my frustrations, reassured me that I would actually get to the end, and gave invaluable support through multiple drafts. She knows how much I needed her.

Getting from drafts to publication is a tedious, though essential, journey. The Viney Agency and Crux Publishing, in the shape of the aforementioned Charlie and my editor, Christopher Lascelles, walked me patiently through each stage. I remark in the text that authors no longer need agents and publishers in order to write a book. That may be so for many people, but Charlie and Chris helped me to understand that going down the self-publishing route in my case would have resulted in a flabbier, less focused and significantly delayed, final output. I’d also like to think that we’re helping, in our small way, to redefine new models of partnership publishing. As part of that process, and in keeping with the theme of the book, it made sense to open up the process of the book design. My thanks, therefore, go to – living proof of the power of disintermediation.

I’m particularly grateful to those people who generously gave their time to be interviewed: Nancy White; Matt Moore; Scott Drummond; Stephen Harris; Anne Knock; Marc Lewis; Annalie Killian; Patrick McKenna; Donnie McLurcan, and, in between rounds of golf and many laughs, Larry Rosenstock.

The idea for the book came after many years of theory postulation with friends and colleagues, and being inspired by the work of others. Sometimes it’s the most casual remarks that open up a whole new line of enquiry and research, so it’s impossible to list everyone who has provided me with inspiration, but mention should go to all those who have left comments on my blog (, followed me on Twitter (@davidpriceobe), allowed me to watch them work, or talked to me after a presentation I gave, or a workshop I facilitated – your work has been a constant source of inspiration. 

Special mention should go to colleagues and friends who challenged or affirmed my hunches, either in meetings or over after-work beers. Some of them (like Stephen Sondheim and Yong Zhao) provided valuable inspiration by mail, and email. They all helped initiate, or refine, the emerging ideas that appeared in the book: Gerri Moriarty, Sugata Mitra, Matthew Horne, Ron Berger, David Hargreaves, Abigail D’Amore, Vicki Selby, Anna Gower, Laura McBain, Ben Daley, Fran Hannon, John Hogan, Ryan Tracey, Ian Clethero, Denise Scala, Margot Foster, Ken Owen, Cady Staff, Chris Wakefield, Darrick Whang, Ian Harvey, Lucy Green, Regis Cochefert, Denise Barrows, Lord Moser, Robert Dufton and all of the staff at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Innovation Unit. Final drafts of the book were read by Paul Kaiserman, whose positive critique was just what I needed, and Tim Riches, who not only gave feedback, but also gave me a laptop after a second calamitous computer failure.

During a period of illness, four years ago, I doubted whether it was worth starting this book, as I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be around to see its completion. So, special personal thanks go to Jean Kluver, my wife Clare (again), my sister Lyn, the kind folks at various health forums, and especially to my oncologist David Bottomley at St James Hospital in Leeds, who made it possible to think about writing, not just this one, but the next one as well.

Finally, my biggest thanks must go to my two sons, Jack and Patrick. They not only helped me to see the urgency, and inevitability of ‘Open’, they also gave me invaluable source material and references to follow up. The process of writing this book has provoked feelings of thankfulness at being a baby-boomer, and guilt for the difficulties facing today’s under-30s. Despite the challenges they face, I’m confident that their sense of ingenuity, generosity and morality will ensure the world is in a better place than the way we’re leaving it. 


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