Whose bailout is it anyway? Saving the Arts may not save Culture

Empty Theatre (almost) | An experiment with HDR. | Flickr

The recent announcement by the government that they are giving a £1.57bn ‘bailout’ to the UK’s arts and cultural sector has been hugely welcoming. As far as traditionally culture-shy and fiscally prudent Conservative governments go, it is a huge amount; it is almost three times the annual budget of Arts Council England. But when you consider it against the pay out in France of €7bn and the fact that the UK creative sector is worth £111.7bn it suddenly seems a relatively austere investment.

But despite that, and after weeks of campaigning, it will no doubt save some of our most valued and treasured cultural institutions (although it may too late for some). It is certainly a substantial amount that begs the question, where is all this money going and will it go to the people who need it most?

For me, there are three very important issues that can’t be swept away with the tidal wave of relief that this much-needed cash injection for these cultural institutions brings.

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My networking is not working!

Last May, I gave a keynote talk at a CreativeWorks London event, called ‘Joining the Dots’. I was asked to talk about a paper I co-authored (with Tim Vorley and Richard Courtney) that focuses on the networking paradigm, but to a more ‘business-friendly’ environment. While I have recently been working more on creativity that is subversive in an urban context, I think there is some conceptual (and critical) common ground with some of my earlier work on networks that this talk showcases. Anyway, the talk is in the video below (please excuse my appearance back then as I had recently been in a cycling accident that was completely my own fault…)

P.S. Incidentally, this is my 100th post on this blog. Not sure what that says about my productivity, but I’m sure it’s not good….

We have always been Creative


Just a quick note to say that over on the OpenDemocracy website, they very gracefully decided to publish my response to this piece by Adam Lent for the RSA. The headline argument is that the last 250 years has not seen a sudden surge in the creative spirit, it has seen the appropriation of creativity by neoliberalised capital, that is co-opting it for economic development. An old argument, but the continued hijacking of creativity for financial and profiteering objectives seems to be accelerating, and so the argument is worth reiterating. Again.

We are no more creative that we used to be; it’s just that now, hell really has broken loose because people have become very good and channeling that creativity into creating hegemony, centralised power and injustice. Perhaps that is being creative? I sincerely hope not.

Seoul: A Cyborg City

Mediation Par Excellence

Mediation Par Excellence

Gazing upon the mediated architecture, video walls and fastidiousness of the esoterically sculpted digital installations of Seoul’s Digital Media City (DMC), it is hard not to think that you’ve somehow transferred from one city into another, without taking a step. A high-tech urban fantasy seamlessly superimposed onto the existing cityscape. Indeed in this way and in many others, Seoul can be thought of as a ‘Cyborg City’. Read More

Creative Failure – cr8net 2012


cr8net 2012 at the Royal Institute of Great Britain

Failure is a dirty word. Business leaders won’t stand for it, politicians try to hide it and generally, it’s seen as something to avoid. But it seems, given the talks and discussions today at #cr8net hosted by CIDA, it is essential for creativity. The stories of how creativity has escaped the shackles of prescribed education via playful experimentation with software, and how networking with everyone who will throw a business card at you is critical to success, they sum up the rhetoric of the creative industries for the last 15 years or so. But is failure such a critical part of what constitutes creativity? Does allowing for experiments to fail really aid creative businesses? Or is it more the will to take a creative idea and putting it into practice in a meaningful way?

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CFP: Spatialities of Digital and Creative Work, RGS-IBG 2012

Call for papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2012
2-5th July, University of Edinburgh

Session convenors:
Rachel Granger, Coventry University, UK
Oli Mould, University of Salford, UK 


While research on the growing and highly influential digital and creative industries has been well-represented in recent years, this session signifies a departure from mainstream research on digital and creative industries towards more exploratory research of the social spaces in and through which, digital and creative work is occupied and shaped. As such it welcomes contributions in the form of case studies, new empirical methods, and conceptual pieces relating to networks, social spaces, urban subcultures, working practices, and even ‘underground’ spaces (Cohendet et al., 2011) relating to this group of workers – as a way of broadening our understanding about how these new economic activities operate in practice.

We particularly welcome pieces about:

  • The working practices of digital and creative workers – such as portfolio working, freelance operations
  • New working practices of professionals afforded by digital mediums – such as location independent working, and co-working
  • Unveiling subcultures and underground geographies of creative and digital workers, which are substantially different to other areas of economic activity
  • New and imaginative methods for capturing and examining creative and digital work

The broader context for the session relates to our understanding of this broad and emergent area of the economy, which continues to be dominated by traditional research methods, especially those relating to ‘sectors’, ‘occupations’, ‘places’ and ‘spaces’. Yet, there is compelling evidence that this group of activities are shaped, organized and can be better understood, through more imaginative spatial constructs. These workers, more than others, appear to be at the vanguard of a changing economy and society – with new working methods and practices – representing a break with the past, which calls for more nuanced research approaches.

The conveners welcome abstracts of approximately 250 words, which along with paper titles and full contact details should be emailed by Monday 23rd January 2012 to: Rachel  (r.granger@coventry.ac.uk) and Oli (o.m.mould@salford.ac.uk)

Cities and the Creative Industries – a quick rant…

Having secured some funding to study MediaCityUK in-depth, it is a great opportunity to grapple with that old problem of the ‘spaces’ of creative industries. I have always tried to write/research/teach around the intersection of urban geographies and the creative industries, yet it seems that despite much academic literature to the contrary, there remains in the ‘real world’ (for want of a more academically-friendly term) a distinct disconnect between the importance of place (and getting that place right) and creative industry development.

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Cross-discipline creativity and Steve Jobs

It is perhaps with a little bit of poetic justice that I saw Mark Brittin of Google speak at MediaCityUK two days before Steve Jobs passed away – the message Mark gave was one that Steve had been actively living and preaching pretty much his whole adult life. I’m not going to eulogize about Apple and Jobs here, there are plenty of other blog posts today that will do that (here’s a particularly good one). Instead, I wanted to talk about what that message was, namely the importance of diverse inter-disciplinarity for creativity and innovation.
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MediaCityUK, it’s too early to tell…

MediaCityUK - the golden goose or white elephant?

Having just spent the day at ‘The Impact of MediaCityUK‘, I am left feeling slightly disheartened as to the way in which those in charge of it’s development are orientating themselves. If you know nothing of the MediaCityUK development, then this will all come as a surprise to you, but you can read some background to it on their website, and you can see the headline figures expertly captured by Sarah Hartley (you can also read her thoughts from the Guardian blog, and look, there’s me in the middle of the picture!)

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Creative Exchange(s)

Having just given a keynote talk at the Creative Exchange (slides above, or if you’re browser isn’t letting you see them, click here), it has been a genuinely invigorating experience to talk to and get feedback from creative industry businesses, entrepreneurs and freelance workers. The talks and Q&A sessions all had stimulating content with tangible repercussions for how creative industry business can collaborate, access finance and reach their audience (whoever that may be). You can relive the day through the twitter stream, #CE11.

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