Reflecting: Be More Birmingham

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Creative England’s ‘Be More’ events are designed to showcase and celebrate creativity in creative hot spots across the country. We held our latest event in Birmingham last week, with Steven Knight, creator, writer, director and producer of amazing shows such as Peaky Blinders, Taboo, Dirty Pretty Things and Locke; Amrit Singh – artist, designer and live streamer and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

Be More Birmingham – Event video from Creative England on Vimeo.

Birmingham is often cited as the engine room of the world’s first Industrial Revolution. You can trace some of the region’s entrepreneurial DNA back to the Lunar Society, established in the city in the late Eighteen Century. A fraternity counting inventors, designers and artists such as James Watt and Josiah Wedgwood as its members. Famed for spearheading Birmingham’s industrial success who debated philosophy, the arts, sciences and commerce; who both built bridges and canals, but also wrote poetry and campaigned for social improvement. The Lunar Society stands out, not just because their members were great creative thinkers, but because they wanted to put their great ideas into action. These eighteenth century entrepreneurs were driven by translating their scientific discoveries into new products or industries, and you can still feel that visceral creativity and creative entrepreneurialism in the region today; in the vibrant Digbeth Creative Quarter, or the flourishing Silicon Spa games cluster around Leamington Spa. The West Midlands is said to have inspired another piece of creative history, The Lord of the Rings. JRR Tolkien grew up in Birmingham where the then meadows of Hall Green are said to be the basis of his idyllic Shire; the quarries, slag heaps and blazing furnaces of the Black Country the inspiration behind Sauron’s Mordor. This isn’t just a fantasy story though -the Lord of the Rings franchise has generated over £5bn – illustrating how substantial the impact of the creative industries can be to our economy. More recently, the award-winning Peaky Blinders has brought the nation’s gaze back to Birmingham, re-imagining the city in a new way; celebrating its’ working class muscle and bringing an almost Hollywood lens to gangster chic in Brum. On Wednesday Creative England were lucky to be joined by Peaky Blinders’ creator, Steven Knight. Steven has been working for the last four years to develop his plans for a new 40 acre, £100 million film and TV studio, based in the region. This game changing piece of infrastructure will provide desperately needed studio space, attract international productions and support local talent alike.

Steven is following in the footsteps of the Lunar Society. Not content simply to write and give life to his characters on screen, he’s also committed to using his creative abilities to leverage serious investment into the sector and create something sustainable for the region. Helping creative people put their great ideas into action is what Creative England is here to do; connecting people to the opportunities that will help them realise their idea, grow their business or take their project to the next level. On Wednesday we also announced the launch of our New Ideas Fund, part of a programme funded by our strategic partner the BFI, which will give small amounts of seed funding to sole traders, start-ups and small businesses with great ideas all around the country. We recognise that it’s often small amounts of capital at the early stage of a business’s life that can be the make or break of an idea. Creative England’s commitment is to give opportunity to untapped talent right at the start of its creative journey. We hope that we can carry on the tradition of the Lunar Society in eighteenth century Birmingham. It’s both thinking AND doing is that is at the heart of our DNA too.

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