Monday, June 22, 2009

Shifting sand

Sending round the creative editor freelance job role for the North Staffs Creative Economies Forum (NSCEF) today, I realised how much the landscape is transforming. When the role was first included in the forum's strategy, it was thought of as 'Creative Times Editor', someone who would put together a regular publication to share information and build the profile of the creative industries in North Staffordshire. For a long time, electronic communication by anything other than email (and that mainly to professionals) was a limited option, you simply couldn't rely on enough people spending the time online to find websites.

As we've been finalising the job spec, we've kept the 'old media' option open but it is clear the role has to be a lot more flexible to take account of the different likely media that we'll be operating with. They will have to share information and stories, but this could just as easily be through a photostream on Flickr as a tabloid paper picked up in music shops. Crucially, the audience has grown dramatically over the last 18 months, with creative workers - and those people who you simply might call creative - connecting through social websites and gatherings such as Talk to Elvis, the Talking Shop and HeadTalk, amongst others. The emphasis, you might note, being on talking. In a place where people come from so many different directions, the talking is really crucial to developing the collaborations and networks that we were lacking. If anything, our circles of conversation need to widen even further, to more diverse groups.

Stoke-on-Trent can sometimes be portrayed as a bit of a desert, culturally-speaking, with many attractive but neglected buildings and a sense of sadness. There's a bit of an ebb and flow in the city, but it's still fair to say that if you don't know about what is going on, it's just in a place you can't see. The creative networks and organisations are more accessible now as most of them have some sort of presence online and there is growing use of online tools. If anything, there's an abundance of meetings, new exhibitions, ambitious startups and mature businesses finding new niches. Hopefully, with the creative editor and the beta launch of the Creative Central web portal (hopefully in the next month; I've seen previews, it looks very beautiful), the scene will become clearer, making it easier to navigate, participate - and let us not forget, make a living, in North Staffordshire's creative industries.

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