In June 2005 I received a letter out of the blue to join a group preparing London 2012 as a contender to host the Olympic games.
It was a magical event to the best of my recollection. I pondered why and how I came to be in the same room with some of the UK’s most creative minds.
Britain would go onto win the bid. When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics it presented the UK with a challenge.
Beijing threw everything at their event, money n’ all, around $40bn. It was a spectacle par excellence.
How on earth could Britain top that? Britain’s government had indicated it couldn’t match Beijing. It spent around £9bn, hence it would have to get very creative in light of the legacy of Beijing. I would be invited to another event at Canary Wharf — a circular seating pattern featuring creatives brain storming. That’s where I took the photo below.
This was a creative audit. A market place where ideas could be captured and where possible spark exaptation: all thoughts were welcome. It was here that a beautiful friend of mine thought up the idea of the NHS and diverse Britain.
The audit also served to look across Britain’s creative industries, a relatively new term from 1998, which quantified Britain’s creative enterprise and its impact on the country’s GDP. This is where a renewed framing of creative entrepreneurialism was taking shape.
Its modern day references fits into an economy where creativity is valued at various societal levels and where ideas take root and create markets. It’s where collaborations across fields yield grand visions and make significant impacts. It requires creatives and business entrepreneurs at the end of this value chain to merge.
I never knew how I got that invite, but over the years as a creative and journalist had played alongside various projects. In 1999 we (working with Creative genius Jon Staton and Viacom via London Underground) we were asked to design ideas around filmic commercials on the Tube.
In 1997 working with one of Ghana’s leading media moguls Edward Boateng, we launched Breakfast Television in Ghana. And three months on from receiving that letter in 2005 a prototype of cinematic video and photos from a digital magazine , The View, ( Viewmagazine) I created was feted in the US.
Years later I would find out what led to that invitation. Jude Kelly CBE the artistic director of the Southbank asked if I would be interested in joining a team of artists in residence. She had a pet name for us, we were to infect and disrupt the way things were; to keep doing what we’d done when institutions create barriers and conventions.
I’m at a university now and the theme of creativity is one I hold onto, a vision for how on the one hand for working with students to spark their creativity, but also for the institutions to harness creativity as also an economic good, and something that interacts directly with communities.
One of the most rewarding programs I was involved in was a knowledge transfer programme between my university and Soho Theatre who were innovating a new comedy platform, which is how I came to take the cover photo above of Nish Kumar. A back story here. I was burning the candle at both ends and at one of Nish’s gig, whilst seated in the front row, my eyes must have looked heavy. “Look at this ****er here, he can’t keep his eyes open”, he said.
I was delighted when I joined Cardiff Uni to be made a co-investigator for Clwstwr (part of the Government’s nine creative clusters which supports creative projects) and have worked with some fabulous talent.
There are two main ecosystems that represent opportunities and I don’t doubt there are systems in place already. One involves universities supporting creative ideas across each other that have an impact on communities. My emphasis here is on diversity: Chongqing (China), The Leaders’ List, and Representology are examples of these. Part of the end strategy in these is the completion of a professional film and a digital platform to broaden appeal.
The Leaders’ List, a gathering of leading UK black and brown tv producers, received government attention with a supportive letter from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). I received a personal note from the Editor of Vogue.
Still in universities, that students find a way to harness their ideas by raising creativity as a subject towards solving real-world solutions. It’s something I have been doing since 2004 (see here) leading to this year’s LAB.
Key to this trajectory is films of record showing how students can create world-beating solutions, which should finally be made into films and pitched to networks. Note how MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s work was turned into a cinema documentary Coded Bias.
The other looks across regions and continents. In my case Africa, where the creative economy has fertile ground. I’m a Ghanaian Brit who schooled in Ghana and spent 18 months reporting from South Africa, before Apartheid was formally ended.
Both these initiatives can work from the creation of creative communities; the coming together of different people and skills to create and tell stories.
If you think similarly or are in this space, drop me a line so we can have a conversation. You can find out more about me here.