The first day of our inaugural Creative Coalition Festival kicked off with a boom today, as we welcomed over 4,000 of you to enjoy our biggest ever virtual event, featuring a mix of speakers, panellists and performances that ran the gamut of film, music, advertising, theatre and digital technology.
Taking ‘Reimagine’ as its theme, our first day asked speakers and attendees alike to consider how the parameters of the creative industries can change, and how we can collectively push through the global pandemic in order to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before. Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO, Creative Industries Federation and Creative England set the day’s tone, noting that while some sectors have found ways to thrive during the pandemic many, many more have been hit hard. She praised the industries’ resilient, entrepreneurial nature, and suggested collaborating and working across disciplines was key to forging the path ahead.
This was followed by a message from the Rt. Hon Oliver Dowden CBE, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who highlighted that while the UK might have been built on heavy industry, it now had the £112bn creative industries as its engine, serving as a huge driver of jobs and revenue, but also a tremendous source of ‘soft power’. He pledged to fight for the new restrictions to be lifted as soon as practicable, recognising that the creative industries will be key to national recovery.
Entitled ‘Reimagining the Landscape, Resetting the Narrative’, the day’s first session brought together an all-star line-up: broadcaster, writer and the BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity June Sarpong OBE; founder of gal-dem magazine Liv Little and singer/songwriter Tawiah, moderated by Caroline Norbury. The session dug into new ways to collaborate, stay creative and build working relationships at a time when people can’t necessarily be in the same room, with the panellists discussing allyship, challenging gatekeepers and the personal and global impact of Black Lives Matter.
After a powerful and thought-provoking performance by Tawiah, Jefferson Hack, CEO & Co-Founder, Dazed Media spoke to Dr Mya-Rose Craig – better known as the brilliantly inspirational Birdgirl – about campaigning, increasing BAME participation in conservation work, the democratisation of greenspace and the power – and pitfalls – of harnessing social media. Conversation then turned from the natural world to entirely different realities courtesy of Keiken, a multidisciplinary, inter-dimensional group of creative practitioners whose dazzling work touches upon everything from gender identity to gamification and AR makeovers.
A standout, specially-commissioned performance by spoken word artist George The Poet followed, moving like quicksilver from his experience as a grime artist to the black community’s deep history of boundary-pushing cultural and artistic innovation.
Broadcaster Konnie Huq then spoke to artist and film-maker Sir Steve McQueen in the first of our Pigeonholed interviews, presenting a frank and often fiery conversation that touched upon race, diversity and politics (“I’m tired of talking about this,” McQueen said of the need for greater representation on-camera and off. “I need action.”), as well as McQueen’s passion for collaboration and his approach to creativity. “I’m an artist first and foremost and a filmmaker second,” he said. “As an artist you have to make a reality out of nothing, you have to make meaning from the things around you.”
After performances, more music and a monologue from Emma Dennis-Edwards’ award-winning play Funeral Flowers, it was time for the day’s final panel session – A Case For Creativity. Panellists Sharmadean Reid (Beautystack), Nathan Woodhead (FleishmanHillard) Andy George (Heritage Arts Company), George Bryant (The Brooklyn Brothers) and Dr. Hayaatun Sillem CBE (Royal Academy of Engineering) discussed what the creative industries need to do to ensure their importance is understood, from breaking down the perceived walls between creativity, technology and entrepreneurialism to better representing the communities they serve, to simply using new ways of working as a launchpad for greater things. “You don’t have to do the Dick Whittington journey to London to find your fortune anymore,” said Sharmadean Reid. “There won’t be a death of talent, there’ll actually be an even distribution of talent.”
With networking, workshops and even an interactive whodunit scheduled for the evening, as the panels came to a close, the creativity certainly wasn’t over.
And we have much more ahead. Now, onward to day two, where our theme is ‘Redefine’.
Thank you so much to everyone who was able to attend today. Remember, the festival is free for all and you can sign up for days 2 and 3 by following the link here!