Festival Session Spotlight: Welcome from Caroline Norbury MBE, Chief Executive, Creative UK 

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Our very own Chief Exec, Caroline Norbury, started the show with a heartfelt welcome to our audiences and thank you to our valued partners for supporting us to bring this pivotal moment for the creative industries to the wide possible audience. 

Good morning and welcome to the Creative Coalition Festival 2022. My name is Caroline Norbury and I’m the Chief Executive of Creative UK, the independent network for the UK’s Creative Industries. Our mission is to unlock the potential of creativity to shape the UK’s social and economic future. And we believe that by harnessing the power of the creative sector we can build a fairer and more prosperous world.

We know that in order to realise this vision we must work in partnership with friends and colleagues from across the Creative Industries, in every corner of the UK and beyond. And I’m sure that’s why you’re here today. It is from recognising the importance of collective action that the Creative Coalition Festival was born – and I hope why so many of you have joined us this week. The inaugural festival in 2020 was an exhilarating experience – three days packed full of passionate exchanges and inspirational ideas – and I’m thrilled so many of you are joining us once again.

This week we’ll hear from inspirational and engaging speakers. Witness mesmerising live performance from some of our country’s most exciting talent. Take part in some truly innovative immersive and informative experiences and workshops. Catching our breath within the packed schedule, there’ll be opportunities for us to network and collaborate, strengthening the bonds of our shared creativity. I am delighted that the Creative Coalition Festival is once again free to attend, and would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to our sponsors for making that possible. It is because of their immense generosity that we are able to welcome the widest possible audience.

It is a little over a year since the first Creative Coalition Festival took place and while in many ways a lot has changed, there is much that remains the same. In November 2020 we were all still reverberating from the initial impact of Covid-19. We’d navigated uncharted waters with ingenuity, adaptability and incredible resilience. And we’d found a plethora of new ways to ensure our creativity continued to flourish. I was then, and continue to be, awed and inspired by the capacity of our creatives to delight, entertain and rejuvenate us, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

The incredible innovation shown by our sector in continuing to deliver the goods during the pandemic has, I think, kickstarted something of a revolution for the way we operate as creatives. The limits placed on how we engage with audiences have, perhaps unexpectedly, freed us from convention and opened us up to new ways to tell stories and reach and connect with audiences. If we can carry this fresh thinking forward, and not simply relax – when given the opportunity to – into the comfort of the familiar, then I believe the next five years will be a wonderfully exciting period for creativity in this country.

But of course there are still hurdles for us to clear. We cannot forget that many are still tackling the challenges and disruption caused by Covid-19. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant is a stark reminder of how precarious our route to recovery from the pandemic is. And – if we are to truly self-reflect – how unsustainable many of our practices are, with the pandemic uncovering the fragility of our ecosystem.

While I hope that many of the conversations and discussions heard throughout this festival will be optimistic and looking to a brighter future, we cannot realise the potential of the Creative Industries to reshape our tomorrow without also addressing the problems we face today. Prior to the pandemic this sector generated £116bn – we have the potential to create money and jobs, but what’s that all been for if that money isn’t spread equitably, and if our workforce models are outdated, unsustainable and inaccessible?

Prosperity means more than profit: it means creating opportunities for everyone, regardless of background, income, ethnicity, or place of birth. It means giving people a chance to be creative, whether they work in the sector or not, in response to local and global challenges, as well as just for the hell of it. It means building communities, strengthening relationships and, quite frankly, it means giving a damn. And we must be honest with ourselves.

The pandemic has simply meant that an already unsustainable situation has reached a tipping point. We know that too many talented individuals are leaving creative roles, perhaps for good. The ongoing precariousness for freelancers – the lifeblood of our creative workforce – continues to sap our ability to recover. They are again losing work and income, without an adequate safety net to protect them. Many are burnt out, feeling overworked and undervalued. We have a live events insurance scheme which does not meet the demands of the moment we face, with many venues struggling to plan for next month, let along next year. And our creative education system is being marginalised and devalued, jeapordising a skills and talent pipeline that is already struggling to meet the demands placed upon it.

We know that creativity and creative thinking is valued by both the public and by employers, but we need to fight harder to ensure fine words translate into action. We must establish a robust framework to empower and support freelance workers and ensure we have a strong pipeline of skilled and talented practitioners who can maintain the UK’s reputation as a creative powerhouse. In order to do this – to protect that reputation – we must drive systemic change to build sustainable careers. This means we must also fight for creative education to be recognised – and funded – as the cradle for future talent and innovation that we know it to be.

The potential of the Creative Industries to act as a catalyst for our recovery is limitless. Following the financial crash in 2008, it was the creative sector that powered us out of a recession, significantly outperforming other industries. And we can do it again.

Creating jobs and growth not just in the Creative Industries, but through our supply chains and across the many other sectors reliant on UK creativity. We know that we are an innovative community – 55% of CI businesses undertake R&D meaning that innovation in our sector outstrips that in the rest of the economy. PwC’s Future Forecast report suggests that £1.39 trillion will be added to the global economy through VR and AR alone by 2030. But it’s not just immersive content, esports and videogames that is growing exponentially – we see a boom in publishing, film and TV production and advertising and likewise our theatres and venues are not short of inspiring new content.

As we move through this next decade the significance of the creative industries as a player in the UK’s future will continue to grow. And that means a lot more than jobs and cash. Our creativity has the capacity to tackle society’s greatest problems and influence significant change. And make people feel better. Our innovation can find sustainable solutions to safeguard our planet. And our culture can revitalize our places and communities. But how do we get there? What steps must we take and which path must we forge?

Many of themes we will explore over the next three days link back to Creative UK’s three core priorities. People, Place and Planet.

We believe in igniting every person’s creative potential. But how can we do that when creative education isn’t accessible to everyone? Why are there more than a quarter of a million working class people prevented from joining the creative workforce? Where are the disabled people in this industry and why do we still have so few Black and Asian people heading up our cultural institutions and big businesses?

We believe that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. How can we ensure wider access to finance and the knowledge needed for creative practitioners and entrepreneurs to build and grow their own businesses? How do we ensure freelancers are supported, protected and enabled to thrive? We believe creative skills are intrinsic to the workforce of the future. So what must we do to defeat perceptions that creativity is not essential or high value? How can we make the case for creativity as a tool for tomorrow’s discoveries?

We believe creativity can regenerate, towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK. There are 47 established creative clusters throughout this land. How can we empower local communities to take control of their own stories? What must be done by local governments to unlock opportunities so that culture and creativity can flourish everywhere?

And we believe creativity will design a greener future for everyone. But how do we imagine a future that does not yet exist? And what is needed to re-shape the narrative in order to protect our planet.

These are the questions we will ask at Creative Coalition Festival 2022. And this is an opportunity for us to learn from one another. To share insights and expertise. To work together and mobilise our creativity as an agent for change. And to use the voice and power of our sector to advocate for a fairer, greener and more prosperous society for all.

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger is a symbol of strength and bravery and in Chinese mythology is credited with chasing away evil spirits and instilling courage in our hearts. But the Tiger is also a wily, independent thinker. Whilst most wild cats hunt in packs, Tigers rely not on their huge physical strength but on their ingenuity and cleverness. Maybe that’s the mantra for us over the next three days. The find the courage of our convictions and use our ingenuity and single-mindness to pursue our own path onwards.

I hope you find opportunities during the Creative Coalition Festival to unlock your imagination; to meet new and interesting collaborators and to make your contribution to our collective imaginations, as we start to recover from the impact of the last two years.

Thank you all for being here to Reimagine, Redefine and Reignite our creativity.

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