Tue 29 & Wed 30 Sept 2015
John Dyer: Observations from No Boundaries 2015
What a great buzz: speaking about Diversity and Inclusion at an international conference at the Watershed to receptive delegates from the arts and cultural sector. It doesn’t get any better!
What did I learn? That many in the sector still have a great desire to learn about and embrace Diversity and Inclusion. However, a number of the delegates I spoke with expressed a concern that there is a danger that compliance driven initiatives may have led to a kind of Diversity fatigue; “we’ve completed the plans where to now?”
Of course, there is still work to be done in the area of compliance, but I see their point, because the paradigm has shifted somewhat. Perhaps, broadening understanding to focus not only on the visible aspects, (race, gender, age, physical ability, etc) but also diversity of thinking could be one way to re-establish active interest.
If I were asked for my views on what would create a real positive step change to re-energise those who need it. I would put forward the following:
- Gain an understanding of Unconscious Bias and the powerful part it plays in the daily decisions we make at work.
- Recognise that we now live in a world where generating innovative and creative ideas is what will keep your organisation ahead of the game.
- Embrace the probability that groundbreaking ideas are increasingly unlikely to come from within organisations led by people who have always led them. It is outsiders and those traditionally exclude who will create the new paradigms.
Director of Credibility
Credibility are specialists in Diversity Inclusion and Unconscious Bias
Tel: 0161 440 9315 / 07866601497
The Babel Choir Project
At No Boundaries 2015, composer and performance director Jennifer Bell created an experimental choir of spoken voices. Delegates were invited to spend a few minutes recording a sentence, which contributed to a sound bank of 35 spoken samples from which the track was composed.
Every single voice was included in the piece, and none were auto-tuned.
The Babel Choir is part of an ongoing project, researching models of political inclusion and discourse, and the social significance of the shared voice. The next iteration is Mouthpiece, which is based on interviews with Parliamentary staff from a barista to Mr Speaker, and is being performed in the Houses of Parliament in November 2015.
For more info on the choir as it develops: babelchoir.com
As part of her going research, Jennifer Bell would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on participating in The Babel Choir. To get in touch, or to discuss future iterations of the project contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit jenniferbellcompany.com
Commentary about No Boundaries 2015
No Boundaries prompted a huge amount of debate and discussion online, both during the conference itself and in its aftermath. We have collated twitter action and created a Storify. More formal write-ups include:
Lyn Gardner, the Guardian:
Yero Timi-Biu, Young Reporter, Bristol
Two days of forward thinking conversations in the cultural hub of Bristol, with instant access to Manchester, international speakers with provocations and Twitter-worthy points – how lucky I was to attend No Boundaries 2015.
Arts conferences are usually attended by a median demographic of older people within a niche creative industry. Conference goers are not necessarily young, or diverse (ethnically, socioeconomically, stages in their careers). I wasn’t intimidated but I was prepared to not see many other people like me at the event. I remember speaking to a colleague saying that there weren’t many other young delegates. “Why would there be young people at a conference?” she asked. “Why wouldn’t there be?” I retorted. Surely if we are going to attend lectures on nurturing new talent and doing things differently, the new talent and game-changers should be in attendance.
I was ready to witness the changing landscape of the creative industry as we face more funding cuts and fewer jobs for emerging artists, writers, directors and more. Nevertheless, I immersed myself in the conference and felt an all too familiar pang of question asking.
As a young person working in the arts, I too have questioned if we are doing enough to nurture new talent, are we thwarting freedom of expression in order to stay safe and secure funding, and just how much do we need to talk about diversifying the arts before we actually do something differently? I was expecting to feel enlightened, reenergised, and feel a little bit smarter. And I was, and so much more. I was blown away by the honesty and sincerity by speakers such as Nadia Latif, Jackie Kay, Jo Verrent and John Dyer. I can only reflect on what I took to heart.
The conference was kick-started by women who I want to try and emulate in every day life. I heard stories about women who overcame adversity in the arts and are still working on projects to share stories of those who are underrepresented or even in danger for expressing their views.
Basma, Director of Action for Hope a small arts training space for 12-22 year olds in Arab regions teaches young people to become photojournalists, theatre directors and more. Action for Hope supports the human need for artists’ freedom of expression. Basma humorously reminded us that refugees can’t often work in ‘proper jobs’ so they become artists. “Artistic expression helps young people find themselves in marginalised communities”.
Exiled Natalia Kaliada, founding co-artstic Director of the Belarus Free Theatre, hit the nail on the head for me when she highlighted the importance of well-informed young people, stating “systems fear educated young people who want to change the world. We should defend human rights at all costs”. I was impressed that the conversations we were having at No Boundaries transcended the Western world and entertained cultural specificity, aiming to tackle homogeneous attitudes.
The proof of this is the thwarting of Theatre Director Nadia Latif’s play Homegrown. She states, “Homegrown was intended to be an exploration of radicalisation, the stories behind the headlines and the perceptions and realities of Islam and Muslim communities in Britain today.” I cannot speculate as to why the play was cancelled by the authorities in such a brutal way, but she said she wanted to “remove the exoticised way” of telling other people’s stories through the hands of middle class white men. “Homegrown had no answers or solutions, no agenda or mission statement, it didn’t seek to educate, repair or improve people, but something in you would have shifted we hope”. And I guess we will never know. She wanted to share real stories from real people, as she believes the rational conversation about freedom of expression is far too removed, “how have we let it get so bad?” she says.
Director of CBBC, Alice Webb brought in some important statistics. There are 12 million children under the age of 16 in the UK. Every child should see themselves reflected on BBC screens; their lives and communities should be seen. The CBBC team aims to empower and inspire children to be creative and engage with different ideas. “Kids are inherently creative, we want to give them a voice”. So why aren’t we utilising this?
During an Open Session, pioneering Bristolian, Vic Ecclestone MBE posed a question about accessibility for young people to gain employment in the arts as he spoke about the exclusion of large numbers of young people in Bristol. He highlighted the educationally and socioeconomically divided poorer and more affluent areas, “How are young people supposed to get on the doorstep, let alone through the door, of these types of jobs?”
Next up was 17-year-old Rosemary Davis, a participant of The Agency/Contact in Manchester. Rosemary was told she wasn’t creative enough to get a formal Textiles qualification, so she started up her own sewing academy. Luckily, The Agency invested in Rosemary and funded her to teach 14-18 year olds how to sew. “Not only are you sewing, but there are people to support you and not knock you down”. The Agency is not measured by participants and numbers, but by individual success, gained through teamwork, perseverance and collaboration.
Reece Williams of The Agency reminded us that art can seem the vehicle, rather than the destination. Poet Jackie Kay echoed this sentiment, as she believes giving young people the opportunity to find themselves in the arts is crucial, “allow the young to have multiple selves, to nurture a sense of a complex identity”.
Jackie Kay spoke about the lack of diversity and accurate representation of society on screen and in art. She highlighted that a lot of art gets made because people don’t see themselves, “Sometimes you write, or you act, or you paint because you can’t find a reflection of yourself anywhere.” I wholeheartedly agree with her, it’s painful to see that we do not have enough interesting and complex characters for black actors, “we need to make our voices heard”.
In light of diversifying the arts and doing things differently, Senior Producer at ‘Unlimited’, Jo Verrent wants us to remember – “Different is delicious and divergent”. It’s no secret that the arts in inherently white: “The core of our arts audience makes up 8% of the population”, the wealthiest, least ethnically diverse people are making, commissioning and distributing the nation’s art. Jo wants to see a diverse range of work, she doesn’t want any more token artists, especially not just one dissenting voice, and she wants them to get paid. Money. She also wants a balance of power. I thought Jo would start levitating at any moment during her speech. It was everything I wanted to hear.
The Oscar went to Director of ‘Credibility’ John Dyer who said, “Diversity is like inviting someone to a party, inclusion is like asking them to dance”. Both Manchester and Bristol went wild when they heard that. So we know we have a diversity problem, now let’s fix it. Not talk about fixing it, actually fix it.
Emma Morsi, an 18-year-old artist, curator and magazine editor posed the solution of just including more people in educational conversations and job opportunities. She is an inspiration to me. If she is going to be one of the world’s art leaders, then I know we are safe. I hope the next time someone at a conference asks me “why would there be young people here?” I can simply smile and point to the diverse line of young people sat on the front row.
Yero Timi- Biu, Young Journalist, Bristol
Tom Grieve, Young Reporter, Manchester
“This is Manchester, we do things differently here…”
Now I love Tony Wilson as much as the next Mancunian, and considering the fact that my parents met at the The Haçienda, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be here without him. But this quote gets rolled out quite a lot. I’ve seen it on posters in sweaty clubs, printed on mugs in touristy gift shops and spoken by Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom films. So if you’re going to invoke it, then you better have good reason, and, to be fair to Dr. Maria Balshaw, she did.
Taking to the stage with an entertainingly sarcastic flurry, she blasted the naysayers skeptical of Manchester’s continuing and rapid cultural evolution. She quoted snide comments she’d had directed her way by people who were unconvinced by the idea of the city as a ‘northern powerhouse’ and used her time on stage to debunk a few of the myths that have sprung up around the funding that seems to be flowing in Manchester’s direction.
Indeed, she stressed that there hadn’t actually been the massive increase in public funding that some have suggested. Manchester does have HOME, our new multi-discipline arts centre and venue for No Boundaries, and the so far vaguely defined ‘Factory’ a £78-million theatre and arts venue is set to occupy the old Granada Studios space. But much of the cultural progress and success we have had here has been in spite of contraction in funding and actually due to ambitious attitudes, connected methods of working and sustained and effective leadership according to Balshaw.
Her sentiments seemed to tie in neatly with those of John Knell earlier on. Knell had used the metaphor of a ‘cultural ecology’ – causing a bit of a stir on the trending #nb2015 – and emphasised a need to focus on funding larger organisations: “Many of our biggest arts organisations aren’t too big to fail – they’re too small to succeed” Larger arts organisations are needed, he argues, as they are flexible and resilient enough to survive and nurture, retain and showcase the world-class talent that the UK arts scene needs to compete on a global scale.
Balshaw was refreshingly specific with her ideas about how to create these larger organisations (or at least networks of organisations). She advanced actual solutions that could realistically be implemented, such as a joined up citywide cultural calendar and ticketing system or the sharing of staff amongst organisations. It might not be something that everybody wants to hear but if huge multi-nationals can work with a Financial Director who oversees interests over multiple countries then maybe arts staff can cover larger areas? She pointed out the fact that she herself works three jobs across the city and called for less ego and more cooperation between arts organisations.
Naturally with all of the talk about bigger, more ambitious bodies, there’s some concern for the smaller ones. I found myself somewhat skeptical, especially in light of the warnings regarding gatekeepers and self-censorship that had been delivered in the morning’s session. Maybe we don’t have to choose though? Balshaw insisted that historically big new institutions haven’t hurt smaller existing ones and that the reopening of Whitworth Art Gallery hadn’t damaged attendance at Manchester Art Gallery.
I’m inclined to agree with Dr. Balshaw on this point. It was a visit to the Whitworth earlier this year that prompted me to go back to Manchester Art Gallery for the first time in many years. From my own anecdotal experience, these places feed off of one another, and the more top quality spaces that we have to inspire the public to take an interest in art then the more interested audience members we will have.
Of this morning’s session, entitled “Can we do things differently?” I was most struck by Odgers Berndtson’s Sam Colt’s talk about her career in arts recruitment. It was one of those practical sessions that had many people nodding and scribbling down notes. She began by asking the audience to tear up the job descriptions and person specifications that have been rehashed and reused over the years.
From my own experience I know that I am often put off applying for positions due to one or two sentences in a job description. I have to remind myself of past work where I might not have been the right candidate on paper but where I have made a success of the role once I got into the company. Colt suggested that for every ‘essential requirement’ that is added to a person specification, the field of applicants is only going to narrow, and that some of those put off might actually be right for your organisation.
Indeed, she went on to cite the advantages of unconventionally qualified employees — something that Marcus Romer, one of our hosts, proved when he revealed that he had originally trained as a dentist (!) — and of having team members that match the demographics of your target audience. Even having one member of your team that matches a particular audience can help to better calibrate and guide a project.
However, it’s always going to be difficult to attract diverse talent when your advert is for a specific type of person from a specific background. There was a laugh when Colt called for us to examine the vague phrase “Degree or Equivalent” and asked us exactly what the “equivalent” was. She urged us not to get hung up on language and formal qualifications. It came down to the idea that it is people that help define and shape the arts and, looking at the speakers who spoke over the two days, the best people come from all sorts of different places. We should be careful not to exclude them.
Dialogue and Contradictions
There were a number of highlights and tweetable sound bites spread over the two days and the panels in Bristol and Manchester did a good job of highlighting them during the final Reflection Session. I’ve written about a few of the speakers who I found particularly inspiring, but, hearing some delegates sum up No Boundaries 2015, I was struck by the contradictions and differences of opinion that had been on show.
Yesterday I’d gotten excited listening to Dr Maria Balshaw and John Knell talking about the need to go big and ambitious. But today, Kully Thiarai had some audience members around me in tears as she spoke about Cast theatre in Doncaster and illustrated the real tangible impact that a relatively small organisation can have on a community. It was good to be reminded that while statistics and reach are important, art is essential for the power it has over the individual as well as the collective.
Several members of the panels also took the time to disagree with Natalia Kaliada’s sentiment that UK artists “feared for their funding” and Althea Efunshile, Deputy Chief Executive at Arts Council England, firmly denied that there was any kind of editorial policy that guided their funding and several delegates stressed caution when they heard the supposed censorship in the UK compared with the struggle that goes on in some countries to. After all, we’re lucky enough to live in a society where freedom of expression is not a matter of life and death (as it is in in some of the speakers’ home countries) and it’s important to remember this when engaging in more theoretical conversations.
I don’t currently work in the arts sector (I’d like to though!) and so seeing these debates occur across the two days was fascinating. Many of these topics were relatively new to me and I certainly found myself forming opinions only to question them later. This was something that I hadn’t really expected and it was nice to see that there was no party line. Some noted that there wasn’t always diversity within the audience (which was true and addressed superbly by John Dyer, amongst others), but there certainly was diversity on stage. From my position, this year’s No Boundaries succeeded by not prescribing an agenda and instead allowing competing ideas the opportunity to crash up against one other.
Censorship in the UK?
The theme that emerged from the first session of the day – “Can we exercise freedom of expression?” – was perhaps not the one that I had expected when I entered HOME this morning. Julia Farrington kicked things off by talking about the de facto censorship enacted by police forces in the UK who have begun to request huge fees to police radical or contentious art events.
That a theatre performance or exhibition might not go ahead because the creators couldn’t afford to pay for policing just hadn’t occurred to me. Naively I’d assumed that artists should be able to practice their chosen discipline and be protected in the same way as any other working person would expect to be in their job. However this was to prove to be just one example of how, in our ostensibly censorship-free democracy, artists were prevented from expressing themselves freely.
Natalia Kaliada had smuggled herself out of her home country of Belarus and into London following her involvement with the Belarus Free Theatre – an underground organisation run on donations. Once here though, she found it easier to fully express herself back in Belarus, using Skype to remotely direct and rehearse her performers, than she did to create work in the UK.
In Belarus, the censorship was obvious and visible and drove political artists underground; here it was hidden and maybe even more insidious in its own way. Kaliada pointed towards the various funding bodies and organisations who act as gatekeepers, enforcing their own agendas via their commissioning decisions. She suggests that artists are forced to temper their more radical tendencies and try not to upset the wrong people in order to find work.
“It’s exhausting to be free…” – Natalia Kaliada
She made the point that London is full of Shakespeare and Moscow is full of Chekov; that whilst we have lots of safe, establishment art (which can even be great art) there isn’t enough of the kind that pushes boundaries. The idea that funded art needs to fit established agendas was given further weight by Nadia Latif whose play Homegrown was recently cancelled before it could be performed.
Latif’s play, which dealt with Muslim radicalisation, fell victim to a government and police attitude towards extremism that is creating a “culture of caution in the arts”. Police had at one point demanded to see the script and talked about placing plain clothed officers in the audience. Natalia Kaliada cited a high “creative confidence” in Western democracies and the general feeling around my home city of Manchester backs that up. But we must be wary and vigilant against small encroachments onto our freedom of expression no matter how the powers that be dress them up.
Tom Grieve, Young Reporter, Manchester
Emma Morsi, Young Reporter, Bristol
SESSION ONE: Can We Exercise Freedom of Expression?
10:45 – Breakfast pastries and fresh juice down, laptop at the ready. With an hour to go before No Boundaries 2015 officially commences I busy myself around Watershed’s café bar.
11:50 – Bristol hosts Clare Reddington and Shanaí Newman kick off No Boundaries with a very important statement: “we are not trying to provide you with answers but encourage you to discuss”. I believe this rightly embodies the concept of having ‘no boundaries’ and the willingness needed to start discussing change in order to break down these boundaries.
12:01 – Session One was themed around the question “Can We Exercise Freedom of Expression?” with an array of perspectives given. There was a consistent notion across the speakers that there is an immediate need for change and that it is our responsibility as an Arts sector to deliver this, “the space for freedom of expression has to be more than maintained, it has to be continuously cultivated”.
I also learnt a lot about the limitations of doing just that. It was particularly intriguing to learn about the other restraints aside from ourselves. During Julia Farrington and Nadia Latif’s morning talks they spoke out against the “the police’s new act of boldness”. From the recent censorship and closure of Arts projects, such as the infamous recent termination of Homegrown by the National Youth Theatre, it appears a lot of the restraints on freedom of speech in our democratic state are based on a kind of ‘forced’ political correctness. Although still incredibly limiting, I use ‘forced’ loosely as Farrington did mention that “what happens is police advice you in not presenting a piece of work, yet tell you it’s your choice”. This alone speaks volumes on the irony of freedom of speech being at the forefront of democracy. Whereas international speakers like Balma El Husseiny and Natalia Kaliada shared poignant perspectives of what freedom of speech means in a foreign context. They argued that, for most, “the cost of freedom of expression is just too expensive” for non-democratic countries; with Kaliada’s current exile from Belarus being living proof of this cost.
I found this international context pivotal and a necessity in these kind of discussions; it’s so easy for us to look at our democratic system and only see our own drawbacks, forgetting there’s layers to everything. Whilst the perspective of different risks for different countries is most definitely not lost on me, I also believe it’s a disservice for the Arts sector as a whole to devalue the limitations of creative sectors in a Western democracy. Likewise, I dispute the narrative of dismissing Western sexism as ‘trivial’, I apply a similar perspective to this. It’s not about comparing the two and deciding what’s worthy of care and who just needs to ‘suck it up’. If the first session has taught anyone anything, I hope it is the power of collaboration. Instead of fruitless rivalry I believe cohesion is the answer, standing united as an industry and not tearing each other down.
SESSION TWO: Are We Nurturing Tomorrow’s Talent?
13:38 – Food and drinks once again in our bellies, during lunch I had numerous discussions about the conference itself. It seemed a recurring comment was on the accessibility of the conference, suggesting the lack of diversity in age alone at the conference was down to the audience being practitioners from the creative industry. But surely that itself raises so many questions: is it that young people aren’t engaging with the Arts as a realistic entrepreneurial venture or are we failing to engage with the young entrepreneurs that do exist? I believe it’s a sad mix of the two. Whilst I rebuke the notion that young entrepreneurs are mythical, I also believe that the creative sector simply is not doing enough to engage with us, myself also being the Creative Director for Nocturnal, a digital arts, fashion and music magazine. Do not get me wrong, opportunities are there, but as a sector not enough is being done to make young people aware of and feel included in this industry.
14:21 – Session Two: ‘Are We Nurturing Tomorrow’s Talent?’ started with Alice Webb emphasising the creative industry has a responsibility to “empower kids, as kids are inherently creative”. It was refreshing to learn about the wonders that BBC Children does for engaging children with the Arts, not patronising or irrelevant. With access to twelve million children, it has an essential role in “nurturing their talent for the future”.
Last year at No Boundaries 2014 Jude Kerry addressed how our education system continuously fails potential creatives; giving children specific moments, for instance school holidays, as their opportunities to explore creatively. This year Professor Sugata Mitra developed this further by discussing our “just-in-case schooling”. This is where we teach students things they may need later in life whilst neglecting the importance of preparing young people for real life experiences in a real life context, where things like the internet does exist. Mitra’s Hole-In-The-Wall project was living proof that “groups of children, given access to the internet, can learn just about anything” and we should teach them accordingly, instead of shying away from educational technology.
SESSION THREE: How Does The Money Flow?
15:36 – We all talk about a lack of funding and the crippling effects but, like Alice Webb said earlier, what we really ought to do is “partner with others to make sure we’ve got enough [funding]”. If we put so much importance and significance on these projects, why don’t we collaborate more when it comes to funding? Maria Balshaw calls for “a change in the Industry which nurtures the people we want in the sector and creates jobs for our young people in order to drive and grow the audiences who can benefit from the work we do”.
Patrick Walker puts forward the innovative Rightster development approach of combining traditional media with social media platforms, such as YouTube and Snapchat. That in an attention deficit world the creative industry needs to ask ourselves “what do you have to offer that offers the authenticity that is desired?”. He suggests that Rightcasting is the answer: “finding the right audience with the right content on the right platform at the right time” whilst also stating “Millennials are creators as much as they are consumers”. I believe this is crucial in understanding young people as both an audience and potential collaborator. The Arts sector needs to realise the value in what young people have to offer as fellow creatives and be willing to invest into this generation, not just offer ‘invaluable experience’ as payment.
It seemed I wasn’t alone in recognising the importance of engaging young people in the Arts from a young age. David Sproxton, co-founder of Aardman Animations, shared the story of Aardman’s humble beginnings during their sixth form years, taking up opportunities alongside creative organisations like the BBC and Channel Four in their spare time. Without these invaluable opportunities for young people, would we have the internationally renowned animation studio we now know Aardman to be? Having had his own talent nurtured, Sproxton believes we must look “beyond the five year political framework … five years is nothing for businesses”. That in order to create the future talent we desire we need to change our attitude towards investing in future artists, “let’s not talk about subsidising the Arts, let’s call it investing in the future of our creative economy”.
SESSION FOUR: No Boundaries Open Mic
16:58 – In response to last year’s plea for more audience discussion, the last session of the day consisted of opening up the floor for audience engagement. There were passionate bursts of opinions as people wandered on down to the platform one-by-one, some of which resonated strongly with myself. Soon enough it appeared that people were sharing their thoughts on what they believed the creative industry has completely neglected.
Russell Willis-Taylor opened up discussion by reflecting on how success is “about power and how much power there is”, and that we shouldn’t always fall on funding as a measure of success or potential growth. This was followed up by Julie McCalden’s essential point about the creative industry’s attitude towards paying artists; the artists who, McCalden reminded us, “are actually producing the work which holds the whole sector together”. She developed this by saying “paying artists should be a core cost, it shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have'”. As both a working artist and freelancer in various aspects of the Arts, I couldn’t agree with her more – nor could I applaud fast enough. This seemed to resonate strongly with the audience as more questions regarding young creatives arose, such as, “what kind of sector are we encouraging them [young people] to join, if we aren’t willing to pay them?”.
On further discussion with delegates Vic Ecclestone, Kami Lamakan (Principal, The Loop) and Yero Timi-Biu (Young Reporter, No Boundaries) we came to a mutual belief that not enough is being done to engage young minority groups. A lot of the time the easiest approach is taken, opportunities circulate between similar groups. Rarely do organisations take their opportunities to the disadvantaged areas themselves or increase accessibility by creating partnership schemes with minority young people groups in these areas. The creative sector’s inability to implement these changes says three things: that you don’t want to, that it isn’t a priority and that you don’t believe that change is necessary. Yet if you feel this doesn’t apply to you, that your organisation believes in better, then I personally challenge you to go forth and break boundaries.
SESSION 5: Can We Do Things Differently?
10:22 – Stuart Nolan turned the top people in the arts industry into giddy theatre students for ten minutes with his interactive magic display that blew everyone’s minds.
10:37 – Session five gave an interesting perspective of what we’re doing well and what we could learn from international successes, such as Seb Chan’s presentation on the incredible Cooper Hewitt Museum interactive pen project. By creating a device that gives the audience permission to play, the Museum is a great example of how “people, not technology, is what makes things successful”. It allowed visitors to engage with the arts even after leaving the artistic realm of a gallery. The public could form a more substantial, long lasting relationship with art from the comfort of their own home, as opposed to just popping down on a Sunday afternoon with the family and not thinking twice about their experience afterwards.
With the recent spectacular Arcadia show in Bristol I wonder how many people know how much goes on behind the scenes to make this phenomenon, beyond it just being a touring stage. I, for one, knew very little about its strong eco-friendly background that has been sustained throughout its initial start-up all the way to the extravaganza we now know it to be – from repurposing scrap materials to using recycled oil for flame displays. The commitment that Pip Rush Jansen, Bertie Cole and the Arcadia partnership teams had to following through with “a concept that we really believed in” completely astounded me – a lot could be learnt from this dedication.
The increased inclusion of minorities in the conference also did not go unnoticed. As Jackie Kay poetically put it yesterday, “sometimes you act or you write or you paint because you can’t find yourself anywhere”. In a similar way I felt this was a significant undertone to the importance of diverse inclusion and collaboration. That in order to create and commission diverse work and be the diverse sector we desire to be, we need to change the game, “organisations need to see the world differently and they can only do so by recruiting people that see the world differently”.
Sam Colt’s prompts the idea of tearing up job descriptions and writing them anew, that we need to “broaden our language” when it comes to recruiting. Apparently “when teams have one or more people from minority backgrounds they are 158% more likely to understand the target audience”, so with numbers like that I’m tired of hearing about inability to diversify – it starts at the core and involves outreach.
It is so easy to talk theoretically about big changes for success that sometimes the creative sector can become so focused on these long-term goals, they end up neglecting immediate objectives.
What Canvas has to offer is young people engagement on a platform they not only know but also love. It creates opportunities to showcase emerging young talent and prompts organisations to embrace technology in the way Millennials do. With a required skillset that has been naturally adopted by my generation (and which will be by future ones to come), Canvas also operates as a potential avenue for recruiting young creatives into the creative industry. The seamless way it works with other organisations to promote their sites and content also means there really is no excuse not to begin collaborating with young people.
The creative sector needs to take a more hands-on approach towards outreaching. It is no longer enough to simply create opportunities for young people or with the intention to include minority groups. What good are these opportunities if these groups don’t know about them? It’s about time organisations create partnership schemes and incentives to engage with their audience – going into the disadvantaged areas themselves, giving groups and collectives in those areas subsidised, free or discounted access to your organisation. If this doesn’t sound good for business economically maybe we ought to compare it to a future of future generations disinterested in the arts.
Even more importantly, what good is it to engage young people with the arts if the sector is unable to make it a prospective career venture? When a good opportunity does arrive rarely will you actually get paid for your work. We make the creative sector so hard to penetrate that volunteer opportunities are prioritised up to the point that it’s somehow worth having to work two other jobs to just about pay bills and yet still tiptoe on the edge of relative poverty. THIS is how we treat our artists, the people who “aren’t given credit for the futuring that they do”, yet “actually produce the work who holds the whole sector together”. If any changes are to be made after this conference I hope organisations put some serious thought into what and how you pay fellow artists, creatives and designers who also work behind the scenes to produce the work that makes your organisation what it is today.
Emma Morsi, Young Reporter, Bristol
Oliver Humpage Access Blog Post
Oliver Humpage, Watershed’s Head of ICT, has blogged about the accessibility provision of No Boundaries 2015.
Ian Hargreaves Think Piece: The Creative Economy and it’s Enemies
No Boundaries and TLT commissioned Professor Ian Hargreaves, who is contributing on the first day of No Boundaries, to write an exclusive thinkpiece. Titled The creative economy and its enemies, it is available to download.
TLT is a full-service commercial law firm built around the needs of clients. We have offices through the UK including Bristol, Manchester and London and work with established brands, growing businesses and individuals. We have particular expertise in the TMT, retail and consumer goods, leisure, financial services, energy and renewables, housing and public sectors. For more information, please see:http://www.tltsolicitors.com/