…  44 .. …  ..  … Big …. ..: Reimaginings

On 26 October 2022, Arts Council England will announce the results of their long-awaited investment decisions into which arts and cultural organisations have been successful in their applications to become National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) or Investment Principles Support Organisations (IPSOs) between 2023 and 2026. The Mighty Creatives are in the same position as everyone else in the sector and are ready for the email on 26 October which will tell us about what our relationship with Arts Council England will be over the next 3 years.  

So, in the meantime, in the spirit of hoping for the best but planning for the worst, here’s another reflection which highlights some of the amazing work the charity has done for children and young people in the East Midlands over the last ten years.

Today’s reflection: Inspiring – Rare – Community – Beneficial – Resourceful

“At the beginning of this journey all I had was a vision and a small voice, hoping to be heard. Now seeing that vision come into fruition, I believe that my voice has been amplified and I hope that it will also amplify the voices and stories of the people who get involved with the project.”

These are the powerful words of one of the young people who have benefitted from The Mighty Creatives’ Young Empowerment Fund setup as part of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic back in 2020 and which we’re here today to celebrate.

The Young Empowerment Fund threw down a challenge to young people across the East Midlands:  how can you respond creatively to the challenges the pandemic presents for the benefit of your communities?

If we had any doubts back then that young people could respond creatively given the immense pressures on their education, their families and their mental health, these doubts were rapidly washed away by the desire they showed to see a better life through their creativity, imagination, and vision.

Since the beginning of the fund, 44 inspiring projects have blossomed over three rounds of the programme. Our young people have engaged a diverse range of art forms including music, performance, poetry, writing, websites, community art, drama and so much more. 

They have worked with our staff, freelance creative practitioners, and artists and in doing so, have helped those who have been working in the cultural sector itself, to financially navigate their own routes through the employment pressures caused by the pandemic.

Today provides us with the opportunity to congratulate all the young people involved – those here today and those who are unable to attend – on what they have achieved.  

Not through Zoom, not through Teams, not through WhatsApp, but in the here and now, face to face.  It’s been a long time coming and I hope you are as thrilled as we are that we can share their achievements with you. As well as the displays, you’ll also be able to enjoy some performances too.  Refreshments are available throughout the afternoon at Gray’s café – located over there – so please enjoy their fabulous food offer as well.

More recently we asked our participants to sum up their experiences of the Young Empowerment Fund in five words and they responded with the following:

Inspiring – Rare – Community – Beneficial – Resourceful

So, today please take this opportunity to browse through their creative work, talk to them about their projects and see how beneficial their work has been for themselves and their communities.   You’ll see for yourself too how resourceful they have been and be touched by that rarest of qualities: the ability to creatively respond to personal challenges and forge a new vision from those challenges.

Our vision here at TMC is simple: it’s to inspire children and young people to harness the power of arts, creativity and culture for positive change: and I am sure that today, you will witness first-hand how our young people have harnessed their artistic powers for all kinds of positive change.

The official launch of Round 4 will be later this afternoon, but in the meantime, I want to leave you some final words from one young person about the effect the Young Empowerment Fund had on them:

“I have met new people and made new connections.”

Which, in our ever-challenging world of mental health distress, dissolving community and heightened political tension is a fantastic testimony to the power that the arts and culture can have on all our lives.  Thank you.

(Extract from welcome speech at the Young Empowerment Fund Celebration event, LCB Depot, Leicester, 26 March 2022)

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

Day 34 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up: just look around the corner, just look…

Having all reassembled successfully at our very own globe in the Highcross Retail monolith, I was surprised when Caroline cheerfully signalled to us that we had another 2 globes to visit. Or at least that’s what I think she was signing. Whaaa… I thought, well on the way of being ready for a sat-down, recuperative pint. Do I really need to step off again, along the pavements, across the streets and around yet more corners? How much further do we need to go?

But such was the journey of discovery, that we stepped off resolutely towards DMU and the next Globe Sculpture by Lakwena Maciver (theme: Staying Power) based just outside the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, and a few yards away from Trinity House.

I remembered that a few years ago I had been invited there to a graduate lunch by DMU and remember reflecting afterwards, you never know what’s just around the corner:

So I sit down amongst the finery and refinery sporting my guest badge meeting with a laudable gent from the Guild of Patten Makers and a lecturer in photography and before you know it there’s a very decent three course meal and then someone gives a welcome speech and then I’m chatting to someone from the arts and humanities department about the cross overs between arts and science and then there’s a very nice glass of wine on offer but I’m not drinking as it’s midweek and then I think I’d better get off to work as it’s a busy day and I have a meeting in thirty minutes and then I have a train to catch and then there’s loads to do and it’s fifteen minutes until the next meeting and then and then and then and then…

But suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned a corner in the dining room, looked up at the altar at the end of the chapel and saw the magnificent stain glass windows by Christopher Whall, (a distant great uncle on my mum’s side) benignly staring at us assembled hordes just feet from where we were sitting. How something in our past can be just around the corner out of sight: but so present and impressive if we are prepared to turn to see it.

We don’t stop often enough to take stock of what’s just around the corner: and we lose out, being engulfed in the mist of our daily routines. How much further do we need to go? Not that far at all: just show some staying power and look at what’s around your next corner.

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

Day 33 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up: shout it loud and proud.  We made this.

It’s not long before we encounter the next globe sculpture on our journey of discovery:  the work by Hannaa Hamdache, Sarah Mensah & Gabrielle Ubakanma (theme: Ecology of Existance).

We’re especially enamoured with this globe as it’s particularly close to our heart. When we heard about The World Reimagined project being developed back in 2020, it became clear in those early days that no-where in the East Midlands was being ear marked to host a globe.  Bristol, yes; Manchester, yes; Liverpool, obviously.  But the East Midlands?  

As ever, it seemed that the region was being marginalised by some larger national interests so we thought, that in our role as Arts Council Bridge organisation for the East Midlands it was up to us to see if we could persuade some of the larger local authorities in the region to step up and support it.  So, although approaches to Nottingham, Derby, Northampton and Lincoln all came to nothing, Leicester City Council, God Bless It, stepped up and found the resources and political will to support the programme, underwrite the financial requirements and make it happen.

We played our part in this process too by sponsoring one of the globes (guess which?) and involving one of our team, Hannaa Hamdache to produce the globe together with local young artists.  Mission accomplished.  Nearly. 

Our sponsorship of the Globe has required us to underwrite its production using a combination of our own unrestricted reserves and public donations.  Our trustees promised that for every £ we could raise through our campaigning, they would match it, £ for £ until we reached the target of £10,000.

We’re not there yet but are heading in the right direction: so any help you can offer would be much appreciated. 

And even if you can’t donate your cash at this moment in time, please do come and visit all the globes (especially ours.  Which we really love. As if you couldn’t guess.) – they’ll provide a fascinating journey of discovery not only around Leicester but across the world.

Day 31 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up: Joe Orton meets Richard Rawlins. Discuss.

Heading off back town-wards, the exertions of the afternoon are taking their toll and the group starts to straggle out along the pavements and roadsides, slowly pulling us apart.  Traffic lights and zebra crossings don’t help the group cohesion and before too long we’re taking up a lot of pavement space in our Journey of Discovery towards the next Globe Sculpture by Richard Rawlins (theme: A Complex Triangle Indeed).

Located in Orton Square which is bordered by Curve Theatre, Leicester Athena, St George’s Church  and the Exchange Building (Leicester’s very own answer to New York’s Flat Iron building), Rawlin’s work is a sculpture which pulls you up sharply with its combination of direct text and images.  If you’ve ever caught yourself saying ‘these things aren’t black and white’ this sculpture and its texts insist that on the contrary, things are very much black and white – and shades of grey too.

Imagine a conversation between Orton and Rawlins taking place in the Exchange Buildings. Orton might start with this from Loot:

Truscott:          Why aren’t you both at the funeral? I thought you were mourners.

Fay:                 We decided not to go. We were afraid we might break down.

Truscott:          That’s a selfish attitude to take. The dead can’t bury themselves, you know.

Rawlins:          ….

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

Day 30 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up: the Tardis of Highfields.

We march on from Medway Community Primary School dodging the prams, pushchairs, school buses and young children and parents who are now doing their own dodging of the traffic.  It’s ‘School’s Out!’ time and the street has become a flurry of activity all the way down to the Highfields Centre where we encounter the next Globe Sculpture on The World Reimagined trail.  Created by Marcus Dove, it’s theme is ‘Abolition and Emancipation’ and is located just outside the offices of the Race Equality Centre which is now based at the Centre.

The Centre itself is a significant presence in the landscape but you never quite know how significant it is until you’re inside.  Complete with recording studios, art rooms, performance spaces and meeting rooms galore the Centre is a veritable Tardis.

Their call to action: “Enhancing Lives, Empowering Communities, Enterprise For All” is a Tradis-type call too: a big, inclusive dynamic ambition summed in just seven words.

We’re mindful of the flow of young people heading our way and our call to continue our Journey of Discovery so we wave a silent farewell to Fatima and Aaron who have kindly come out to see us and figure out what on earth is going on.   Showing them our orange badges isn’t having impact on them either so we shrug, wave good-bye and some how gesticulate that we’ll be in touch with them again soon.  They seem bemused by it all but send us off in good cheer.  Next stop: the sculpture at Orton Square.

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

Day 29 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up:  the sanctuary of Medway Community Primary School.

Every step of the way away from Victoria Park takes us into a journey of discovery of the community of Highfields where we reach the Globe Sculpture of Lou Boyce (theme: Stolen Legacy: the Rebirth of a Nation) placed next to Medway Community Primary School in St. Stephens Road.

We notice how noticed we are becoming as we make our journey: people stare at us as we straggle along the streets in silence, looking at our phones or checking the paper maps that one or two of us have.  One shop keeper comes out to ask what we’re doing, and we show him the orange badge, point to the QR code and he takes this as a sign that we are a group interested in nature.

We get the impression that there aren’t many times when a group like us stroll down these streets, looking suspiciously like tourists.  Whilst these streets may offer you security and a place to hang your hat and settle down, they wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice as a tourist destination.

The Highfields Remembered website hosted by DMU University provides greater knowledge of the area than we learn from our journey of discovery into the area, and reminds us that since the early 20th century Highfields has often become the home of new communities: Jewish, Polish, Latvian, Caribbean, and East African: 

“In 200 years, Highfields has grown from a sparsely-populated rural area to the thriving multicultural community it is today.  All the communities which have settled, either staying or moving on, have made a contribution to the area’s development, leaving a legacy of thriving mosques, temples, churches, shops and other secular buildings.”

We arrive at the location of the Globe Sculpture at Medway Community Primary School where the school’s concerns about slavery are evident through its website.  Again, this is not a matter of dry, distant historical interest but is a live issue which families face in the here and now:

Modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. People can become entrapped making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies.

They are also explicit about the differences between child work, child labour and child slavery:

Child work:      Some types of work make useful, positive contributions to a child’s development, helping them learn useful skills. Often, work is also a vital source of income for their families.

Child labour:   Child labour is not slavery, but nevertheless hinders children’s education and development.  Child labour tends to be undertaken when the child is in the care of their parents.  Hazardous work” is the worst form of child labour. It irreversibly damages children’s health and development through, for example, exposure to dangerous machinery or toxic substances, and may even endanger their lives.

Child slavery:   Child slavery is the enforced exploitation of a child for someone else’s gain, meaning the child will have no way to leave the situation or person exploiting them.

Child trafficking:          Trafficking involves transporting, recruiting or harbouring people for the purpose of exploitation, using violence, threats or coercion. When children are trafficked, no violence, deception or coercion needs to be involved, trafficking is merely the act of transporting or harbouring them for exploitative work.

The school also recognises that child marriage can also obscure what are in reality cases of slavery or slavery-like practices, being clear that child marriage can be referred to as slavery, if one or more of the following elements are present:

* If the child has not genuinely given their free and informed consent to enter the marriage

* If the child is subjected to control and a sense of “ownership” in the marriage itself, particularly through abuse and threats and is exploited by being forced to undertake domestic chores within the marital home or labour outside it, and/or engage in non-consensual sexual relations

* If the child cannot realistically leave or end the marriage, leading potentially to a lifetime of slavery.

But their focus is not just on the impact of slavery on children but also on the impact on adults and families and the causes of slavery:

Forced labour is any work or service which people are forced to do against their will, under threat of punishment. Almost all slavery practices contain some element of forced labour…. 

… Forced labour happens in the context of poverty, lack of sustainable jobs and education, as well as a weak rule of law, corruption and an economy dependent on cheap labour.

We bade farewell to Medway Community Primary School, thankful that it offers a sanctuary for children and their families against the tyrannies of slavery and enslavement. Next stop: Highfields Community Centre and its relationship with the fashion workers of Leicester.

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

Day 27 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up:  on the trail to reimagine a world.

The morning team TMC mute session finishes just before 2pm and following some loud closing of laptops, shuffling of chairs and waves across the office, we’ve all gathered down in Rutland Street to explore the Globe Sculptures on the trail of The World Reimagined.  Our Orange Mighty Unmute badges are prominent on our coats, and we’re determined to show them to anyone who’s interested, albeit in silence.

The World Reimagined is billed as “a Journey of Discovery to transform how we understand the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and its impact on all of us, so that we can make justice a reality.”

So we head over first to the Globe Sculpture made by artist Laura-Kate Pontefract, inspired by the theme Mother Africa, being shown at Leicester Station.

Except it’s not there: we discover that the rail dispute has led to the globe being moved over to Leicester’s New Walk.  The doors to the station are locked, there’s no sign of the globe and the only significant signage is a notification from East Midlands Railway about the station’s closure.

Outside the station, we wave to the members of picket line who wave back and show some interest in our orange Mighty Unmute badges although no-one steps up to snap the QR code on the badges. One missed fundraising moment silently passes us by. 

Somewhere in the back of my memory, I’m reminded of the links between the railways and the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans but as we’re all on mute for the day, that conversation will have to wait for another time. One missed understanding moment silently passes us by.

We continue at pace to where Laura-Kate Pontefract’s Globe Sculpture is located at New Walk.  Within close proximity to the second globe on the trail by Roy Meats. (theme: The Reality of Being Enslaved) the effect of the globes is audible.  Our muteness becomes even quieter and our silence even noisier.

We stare, we read, we reflect, we genuflect.  One passer by looks at us quizzically and tries asking us what we’re doing and what the globes are about.  We direct his stare to our orange badges but he’s in a hurry and won’t be hanging around to find out.  He sees the word ‘mute’ on them and thinks that’s a reason for him not to talk to us any more so he hurries off after his walking partner. One missed understanding moment silently passes him by.

But it’s soon time for us to move on to the third Globe Sculpture up in Victoria Park.  The autumn chill is finding its way into our joints and we still have a lot of walking to do.

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on the 5th October. You can check out the campaign here and donate your hard-earned disposable income here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcome and appreciated.

Day 26 of the 26 Day Big Shut Up:  the noise of silence.

It’s an odd start to our Mighty UnMute Day; usually you’d drive into town and keep muted until you park up, walk to the entry doors which someone opens for you and you hold back from thanking them and you get micro-glimpse of what it is to silence yourself. Rude Man! Someone is probably thinking right now.

You walk over to Gray’s café where you interact by pointing, gesticulating, a thumbs up when the server remembers your usual order and semi-normal service is resumed. Cappuccino in hand, it’s up to the office, trying to avoid any awkward conversations which could involve more complex signage, gesticulations and strangers getting the wrong idea.

In the office, everyone’s heads are down, getting on with it.  People look away, concentrating on screens, post, spreadsheets. Laptops are tapping away, unaware of the need to be mute.  Rubbish shifts, furniture scrapes.  The inanimate speak ever loudly, immune to a call for silence.

You try anything to fill the silence: a conversation attempted in charade like gestures soon evaporates when you can’t figure out the charade symbols for hol-i-day.  I resort to digging the headphones out of my laptop bag and the noisy silence is replaced with something more melodic, urgent, meaningful. 

At lunch, you weigh up how difficult it is going to be to be able order something to eat something which is beyond a coke and a burger.  Your first choice is to go straight to an automated MacDonalds pay station which asks you no questions, you tell it no lies and in theory you can type in anything you want to.  Unless there’s no spare ordering station, so it’s back out into the street weighing up the options again.  You opt for safety and familiarity; they know you back at Grays and they’ll be sympathetic to the campaign, so you can point at a menu, make the finger sign for tea and get on with it.  

Back to the office and some others have gone off to negotiate lunch, the photocopier is in full swooshing swing and there’s an odd laugh or rustle of a packet of crisps.  A lever arch file snapped shut.

Listen more often to things than to beings springs to mind, and whilst I did have a vague idea about listening to the furniture at some point today, I opted for safety first this morning with the headphones so hadn’t encountered the challenge of listening to the tables and chairs.  Although my back has, and it’s not especially happy with the chairs it is being asked to communicate with.

Do things speak more vociferously now we’re in the office and have the time to listen to them with more intent?  I’m looking at a bookcase which was part of the Without Walls event of a couple of weeks ago and wonder what that’s saying right now?

It’s got a quirky little lamp and shade on top of it; a top row of books, a couple of picture frames and looks like it’s been covered with off cuts of newspapers or wrapping paper.  4 of the 6 shelves are empty. They’ve been unpacked and its waiting to go? Or have just arrived and waiting to be filled up?

I’m reminded of the story on the radio this morning about the parable of looking at 11 roses through a garden gate: the premise is that that wherever you stand, you’ll never see them all at once and you’ll never get the whole picture or story.

So much for listening to things more often than to beings on this occasion.  My muteness just encourages the furniture to provide even more complex, noisier messaging than listening to the people who occasionally sit in those chairs.

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on the 5th October. You can check out the campaign here and donate your hard-earned disposable income here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcome and appreciated.

Boss Bike Rides: it’s all about the CRM (creativity, relationships and magic)

Our first ride in June 2021 saw us cycle off from the Beans café on Nottingham Embankment just shortly after sunrise (well, 8.30 to be precise), destination Leicester.

Before too long (just over 6km to be equally precise) we had shared thoughts about what creativity was all about and what role it had to play in innovating business.

Creativity: H, c or M?

We read in the literature of Historical  or ‘H’ Creativity in which creativity is solely the domain of ‘great’ individuals (John Gardner), or alternatively the writings  of  Anna Craft who refers to the notion of ‘little ‘c’ creativity in which creativity is demonstrated in the personal sphere of possibility thinking and problem solving for example. Might we now talk about M creativity (as in Mmmm? Creativity? ) – or molecular creativity, the phenomenon by which creativity is present in all aspects of human endeavour in all moments of the day – and means whatever we want it to mean?  Might magic be a better word?

Creative accounting, creative engineering, creative gun play. The word creative these days has ended up in so many odd phrases and at times that unconstructed old fashioned creatives who believed in the power of paint or performance despair at how promiscuous the word has become.

The Creative Process

Nevertheless, our discussion continued unabated and we discussed how difficult creativity can be to discuss, abated or unabated.  It just is, and no amount of discussion, reading or writing will ever satisfactorilty describe once and for all and finally what the damn thing is all about.

We did agree though that creativity wasn’t just about having a glorious generative good time.  It’s as much about convergent thinking as it is about divergent: it’s as much about ‘killing your darlings’ as it is raising them.  I’m not sure who the first creative was who coined this little motto, but it points to the uncomfortable fact that  creative act is as much about destruction as it was generation and that at the heart of the process, there is always a moment of supreme annihilation.

The important thing is to know where you are in the process.  If you’re converging when you need to diverge, diverging when you need to converge, then this just leads to a very unhappy time for every one around you.

Creative Relationships

Just outside Hathern on the A6,  we encountered the Old Curiosity Book Shop and this prompted some speculation on what role curiosity has in the creative process.  I was reminded of my days in Hull, studying the intricacies of creative relationships (funded by Creative Partnerships back in the day) and developed an understanding of the role of curiosity in these processes through what turned into be the ‘golden thread’ running through the thesis. The nub of this proposal was that the emergence of a creative relationship went through several phases:

Phase 1:          Non-alignment. The phase in which A and B are in no relationship with each other; are unaware of each others presence, needs, interests or desires.

Phase 2:          Alignment.   The phase in which A and B have been brought together by the presence of a third party – a catalyst (which may be a project, initiative or challenge) which acts to bind the responder and stimulus.

Phase 3           Curiosity. The phase in which either one of the two agents exhibit curiosity in the other; if both parties become mutually curious then the relationship response demonstrates a mutually reinforcing amplifying feedback loop, the response becomes more intense and the relationship shifts to the next phase.

Phase 4           Interest.  The phase in which curiosity has been superseded by a more intense attraction in each others presence, needs, interests or desires.  The two agents come closer together, whether this be either physically or emotionally. As with the phase before, if this interest is reciprocated then another mutually amplifying positive feedback loop is established and the relationship shifts to the next phase:

Phase 5           Intimacy          Where the relationship is marked by strong emotional, intellectual or physical connections and feelings relating to love (storge, philia, agape or eros) is demonstrated.  This may be the point at which the impact, or the results, of the relationship can be witnessed not only by the agents in the relationship but by the wider world in which those two agents are situated.

You could tell by this point that the unrelenting weather was turning us both a bit stir crazy so we thought it was about time to ride those final kilometers into central Leicester and complete the ride: which we did.  Not especially triumphantly  (we were too wet for that) but certainly relieved that our joint 106km could be notched up on the giant Boss Bike Ride Target Board.

If you’d like to join in a future Boss Bike Ride, you can do so here.

Or, if you’d like to support the campaign by donating and sharing it, you can do so here.

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