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Reflections on the Creative Workspace Summit by Steve Moberly

13th May 2018

The Creative Workspace Summit took place in Great Yarmouth on 20 April, and was hosted by originalprojects, on behalf of East CVAN. We sent Platform Alumni Artists Naomi Eaton-Baudains and Steve Moberly along to the summit. The artists share their thoughts – Steve below and Naomi here.

The summit was an investigation into the role of creatives on an area’s sense of place and in creating its value, and how to best use and serve creatives to improve areas, such as Great Yarmouth, but without then pricing them out of that very place they helped to create.

There were thirteen organisations represented in total, ten of which were dealing with artist spaces/studios, with three of those ten being from seaside towns. Out of the remaining three: one was a funding organisation, another an architecture practice, and the last an independent online networking platform.

Charles Landry, the keynote speaker of the event, gave example after example of successful artist-led, community projects in Antwerp, Mannheim, and Milan amongst others, that had enriched areas beyond the sum of their parts. And when trying to measure the value of these projects he said it was better to ask the question of what is the price of ‘not’ initiating these types of projects.

The organisations from seaside towns: Folkestone’s Creative Foundation, Great Yarmouth’s originalprojects, and Southend’s Focal Point Gallery touched on that troubled love triangle of traditional tourism, the local council, and the artistic community.

In Bournemouth, where my own practice is based, the council have in the past focused on their traditional tourist income and continue to run events such as the air show more in line with tradition and with less of a focus on fostering a creative community specifically.

“If you have a council that realises the value and supports the arts cherish
them dearly, because in Birmingham we don’t have that.”- Amahra Spence of MAIA

Each organisation reflected on its own artistic communities growth or depletion locally, but for example, the predicted London’s loss of a third of artists by 2020 could well be somewhere else’s gain. The closest to an overview of that movement on a national level came from Lucy Harvey of Paradise Works based in Salford. She explained how a relationship with the local council had proved fruitful – as artists were being increasingly priced out of Manchester, Salford City Council sought to profit from this by offering Manchester’s artistic community reduced rates on a large building space that was handed over to Paradise Works to run.

The event could have been at risk of preaching to the converted, but I was heartened by the fact that at least two of the people I talked to were Councillors.

Steve Moberly, May 2018

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