Policy to support creativity? Joining up networks.

curating connectivityLast week on behalf of Bridging the Gap I had the opportunity to attend an event run by Policy Forum Wales. A range of speakers, largely from the media industries and government offered  a very rich set of perspectives on the development of the Creative Economy in Wales. The process of political decentralisation over the last few years has led to more Welsh-based policy-making, and funding decisions. This has been hugely successful for the city of Cardiff, which has responded rapidly and positively to build a dynamic and growing creative industry sector.

Recent studies on creativity and culture emphasise that economic growth in this area can’t arrive from investing huge sums in single projects, or by expecting private investors to pick up the bill. Often workers in the creative industries move to-and-fro  between publicly-subsidised projects, (whether in theatre, television production or ceramics) and private commissions or enterprises. They move rapidly from post to post, learning and ‘cross-fertilising’ ideas as they go. If innovative ideas are to flourish they require these networks of people, who can pass on ways of working, and communicate opportunities to each other.

Cardiff University has responded head-on to these studies, with the project Creative Cardiff. This initiative doesn’t only aim to get academics working with creative practitioners.  It also works to strengthen the network of creative practitioners right across the city region. That way when good ideas happen, the right people can quickly be called on to turn the ideas into reality.

This has been an interesting situation for Bridging the Gap to follow, as Creative Cardiff is going well beyond the remit of a traditional research collaboration. Some might see it as going too far… Yet while funds for culture are ever decreasing, university and research council funding is becoming a lifeline for some arts organisations. Through providing a platform and network for creative practitioners, Creative Cardiff is making the most of straitened resources and keeping a space open for debate, dreams, and imagination in the city.

The presentations by policy makers and industry leaders last week, suggested that they also recognised the importance of this rich cultural ‘ecology’ in the future of the Creative Economy in Wales. At Bridging the Gap we are looking forward to thinking more about how the GW4 universities can collaborate with each other, and with organisations right across the cultural sector to support peer-to-peer learning, and create opportunity at a regional level.

ImageFigure 2: Projects emerging from Ideas Labs from ‘Curating Connectivity’. ‘Curating Connectivity’ (Dovey et al. 2014) was the third working paper from REACT (2012-2016). The full paper looks at how knowledge was exchanged in projects that were co-produced by academics and creative technologists, and can be found here.

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