Festival Session Spotlight: Reimagining the Landscape, Resetting the Narrative

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The opening day of Creative Coalition Festival 2022 was all about Reimagining our collective future, so we opened up the conversation of how we can collectively reimagine our narrative, take control of our own stories, and empower and support others to take up space.

Our host Jude Kelly, CEO & Founder of The WOW Foundation, took our audiences straight to the heart of the topic today by asking the big questions – what are all of us really doing to create new landscapes, and particularly those people who have strong professional power?  

Joined by three creative pioneers, Renell Shaw – songwriter, composer, producer; Leonie Bell, Director of the V&A Dundee; and Sophia Smith Galer, Senior News Reporter at Vice.

Sofia opened the conversation by talking about her experiences during the pandemic and what happened to inspire her into action;

“Prior to the pandemic, it had been really difficult for me to get people to understand the value of the internet and social media and it was often quite generational. At the BBC, I was a faith and ethics reporter and as the pandemic began, the best sort of groups and organisations within the faith sector that were adapting to having to now cater for people of faith online rather than offline.” 

Sophia went on to explain the concept of digital dualism, the theory that what happens online and what happens offline are two separate things. But now there have been social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, that happened during the pandemic in which people conducted digital activism that has very much helped to make real systemic change happen. Sophia believes that this will keep happening in the future and that, encouragingly, people are taking digital media far more seriously.  

When asked about what she is doing now reset the narrative, Sophia discussed her journalistic activism, particularly around sex education, and innovating through vertical video. Whether it’s Instagram Reels, TikTok videos or YouTube shorts, these are the platforms we need to be to tell the right stories and engage the highest amount of people.  

At the beginning of 2020, Renell Shaw was already starting to focus more on creating content rather than performing. And when the pandemic started and his performance-based work disappeared overnight, he looked online to find ways to continue to talk about the subjects he had composed music for.  

“The pandemic was a moment where myself and others felt we were able to stop and think about what we want to say, rather than staying on the conveyor belt of ‘create, release, tour; create, release, tour’. It made me realise that there is a lot of ‘hype’ in in the entertainment industry, sometimes people projects can be progress just because it sounds exciting. I believe art should help to make people think, or at least inspired the idea of thinking.” 

Renell also talked about creating art for the purpose of expansive conversation, to open up new ideas, and how he wanted be in charge of the story that he told and how to tell it, which led him to some of his deepest beliefs.  

Jude Kelly reflected on the concept of digital dualism and intergenerational divide, and how we must collapse that gap. Because actually, if the gap doesn’t get collapsed, people become dinosaurs whilst still holding on to power. The 70s was a key period when huge progression was made in terms of intergenerational collaboration, when all stories were told, and it did change things radically.  

Leonie Bell spoke of her experience of the pandemic, which began working in local government with quickly shifting priorities, before taking on her role at the V&A Dundee.  

“At the start of the pandemic I had a cultural regeneration team, but within the first week I was redeployed to help with food distribution and coordinating the volunteer network. At that time, I think lots of us working in the cultural sector, who weren’t described as key workers, were actually thinking, what is our value? What is our overall contribution? Spending number of weeks working on totally different things was hugely reaffirming, but also an undermining experience.  But very quickly, we realised that our recovery wasn’t just about food distribution, it was about people’s connections to the place they live and to their community through creativity and culture.”  

Since becoming Director of the V&A Dundee in October 2020, Leonie has worked to create an environment that feels like more of a civic organisation rather than an institution, thinking much more about what the V&A is giving back Dundee as a place. 

The discussion progressed to talk about what success look like in terms of resetting the narrative, and the need to look at success being something which is about truth. And importantly, every generation has an important part to play in shaping our culture. 

Wrapping up an energising conversation, Jude talked about how changing the narratives can sometimes be painful, but is definitely worth doing. All of our guests today talked about personal moral motivation as a key driver for change, and as an industry, we must ensure there is space for new narratives and stories to come to the forefront and shape our creative future. 

If you would like to watch this session in full, Creative UK Federation members can access all Creative Coalition Festival content on demand. Get in touch to find out more about joining today.

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