Utopian Dreams

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Creative England CEO Caroline Norbury reflects on last month’s Creative England Live, and the conversations it sparked about the future of the creative industries.

One of the great strengths of our creative industries is their ability to imagine new possibilities. Science fiction, for example, has proven especially good at predicting the future. In 1865 Jules Verne predicted the moon landing, 104 years before Armstrong and Aldrin touched down. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley wrote about antidepressants – a mood-altering pill called Soma – 20 years before scientists first discovered the connection between depression and brain chemistry in 1951. And could there be a more chilling – or more beautiful – depiction of Artificial Intelligence gone rogue, than Hal in Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Yet whilst literature often takes a dystopian view of the future, I remain optimistic. One of the great core values that unites many of us working in the creative sector is our intellectual curiosity. It appears in our belief in the power of culture to build communities, and it drives our commitment to using our creativity to achieve that change. Just look at the Blue Planet effect. This was creative content so powerful it’s widely believed to have sparked a turning point in the war on plastics.

Last month Creative England hosted Creative England Live, an event designed to explore the political, cultural and technological shifts that are set to redefine the future of the creative industries.It was a rare opportunity to pause and reflect amongst the constant innovating, adapting, and technological change that defines our sector. One theme consistently emphasised was the need to create more accessible paths to access creative careers. As our host for the day, June Sarpong eloquently put it “As the world becomes increasingly diverse, we must ensure that creative industries lead the way in workplace fairness and equality. Only through creating more companies that hire, nurture and promote talent from all walks of life can we reach our full economic potential.” And June is absolutely right. The creative industries have great potential to help us shape a better world. But if we’re responsible for helping others to imagine a better future, we have to get our own house in order along the way.

It’s Creative England’s mission to tackle the imbalance that exists in the creative sector. We work to create opportunities for people all over the country to be a part of shaping its future. At Creative England Live we launched CE50 for 2019, which highlights some of the exceptional talent that we believe will be central to the future of our creative economy. These are fifty of the UK’s most interesting, disruptive and creative companies and individuals, working in the nooks and crannies of the country that don’t often attract the attention of the mainstream media. Whether it’s by tackling the gender imbalance in coding skills, providing a platform for underrepresented voices, or creating more accessible media content, many of this year’s cohort are fusing creativity with technology to create meaningful solutions to real world problems.

Birmingham-based GirlDreamer are one example. They’re creating opportunities for more young women of colour to not just be users of technology and digital outlets, but to be on the front-end of their creation and development too. This is something that drives Kanya King, who I had the pleasure of interviewing at Creative England Live, too. At an early age Kanya realised that if she wanted to see change in the music industry, she’d have to imagine and shape the platform to do so herself. Over twenty years later, the MOBO Awards she founded have taken black music from the margins of British popular culture to the heart of the mainstream all around the world. The MOBO Trust and other MOBO-initiatives continue to work towards her vision of a future where creativity and culture is accessible to all, regardless of gender, creed, colour or class.

It’s that same vision that drives the team at Creative England. The pace of change in our digital and creative industries means that efforts to build our vision of a better future are more important than ever. Whether in the work of Creative England, MOBO, GirlDreamer, or any one of our inspiring CE50 companies, actions like these are building more inclusive creative businesses, driving more inclusive economic growth and in turn contributing to a more inclusive society.

Dystopias are probably best left to science fiction, it’s our responsibility to work as much as possible to build the utopias of our imagination.

Read about all of our CE50 businesses here