Declan Sheahan. a Masters student at King’s studying Arts & Cultural Management, went along to the Creative Industries Federation’s (CiF) first Annual Creativity Lecture where members were saying a fond farewell to the organisation’s Chair and founder, Sir John Sorrell. Here Declan writes about the event and Sir John’s address to the Federation.
I was incredibly lucky to be invited to Sir John Sorrell’s farewell address (many thanks to Ruth Hogarth at King’s Cultural Institute), touted as the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. Consequently I was keen to arrive promptly, calm and looking relaxed. A short monsoon on my 10-minute walk from King’s College London Strand Campus to The Hospital Club close to Covent Garden ensured I arrived quite the opposite. As I dried myself, my mind turned to the prospect of Sir John Sorrell’s address that evening. How do you balance the end of one chapter whilst welcoming another?
Hair dried and drink in hand, I took a seat and eagerly waited for Sir John. I opened a tiny envelope on my seat which concealed a business card with ‘Creativity’ printed on one side, and the dictionary definition printed on the other. Many hours had been spent debating and trying to pin down definitions of ‘creativity’, ‘the arts’, ‘art vs. craft’ and so forth during my Masters seminars (Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London). The definition on the card was so neat that it seemed to mock me, so I stuffed it in my wallet for safekeeping. It’s still there.
I was familiar with The Virtuous Circle, co-authored by Sir John Sorrell, which makes an incredibly compelling case for the value of creativity in the educational setting and provided one of the sparks of inspiration for my dissertation topic. Needless to say, any case put forward by Sir John this evening would be preaching to the choir. Surrounded by Creative Industries Federation members who looked on to someone who had worked hard to bring a previously disparate collection of industries together to talk with a more ‘united voice’.
My attention soon turned to Sir John as he took to the stage and began a talk that mapped the story of The Creative Industry Federation. This was so inextricably linked to his own story that I sometimes couldn’t tell which was which – where friends ended and colleagues began, where his vision turned to hard graft, determination and action. His talk spoke to me as a struggle for recognition that the creative industries, before they were termed as such by policy, needed leadership and organisation if they were to ever be taken seriously by government. He praised the DCMS mapping document and the more recent work of Ed Vaizey for understanding and supporting the ‘cause’ of the UK’s creative industries, their value to the UK economy but also to the fabric and texture of British society.
Sir John dedicated a large amount of his talk to the importance of the link between creativity and education. From my perspective as a Theatre grad, creativity and expression of individuality is only made possible through arts subjects. However, Sir John’s vision of creativity imbedded as a process or way of thinking across all subjects is a vital step, as it would certainly have changed my perception of STEM subjects being a place for my creative endeavours had this been made explicit to me at a young age. His speech outlined that there was still much to do to enshrine creativity within our education system to ensure that not only the Creative Industries talent-pipeline doesn’t run dry, but that Britain continues to drive innovation across many sectors.
The evening had struck a powerful balance, successful in gathering the creative industries together to celebrate Sir John’s long career and legacy and also welcoming the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. As I headed out from the Hospital Club, into the pouring rain again, I felt energized and ready to begin a new journey of my own. The infrastructure installed by Sir John Sorrell and those who worked with him demands a new generation of creative sector leaders to come forward and continue his work.
The Creative Industries Federation is the national membership organisation bringing together all of the UK’s arts, creative industries and cultural education to provide an authoritative and united voice in a way never done before. For more information about the course, please visit the King’s website. More information about the Creative Industries Federation can be found on the organisation’s website.
Words: Declan Sheahan
Pictures: Declan Sheahan