Ring out the old, ring the new

Snow – with sunshine and blue skies – how contrary! I hate snow – my sense of the aesthetic simply flies out of the window every time the snow appears – the apprehension of coldness drowns out all other sensations and I jus want to close the curtains and curl up! So here I am, distracting myself, thinking about both the year almost behind us as well as the year to come. Thank heavens for diaries –
• The year started with our Tenth Birthday (18th January). It was lovely to see old friends, both customers and former colleagues, including Ruth and Carmen and Wendy – very happy memories!
• On the same day, Jo (Wilkinson) left us to spread her wings – she’d worked with me since 1999 and had worked her way up from my assistant to CIDA Director of Programmes. In that time, she had developed superb project management skills and now was keen to see to what other uses she could put those skills. She left an enormous gap and it was to feel a bit like bereavement for several months before we began to adjust!
• By February/March, we started to see the magical effect our Innovation service was having on clients – the strength of the feedback took us all by surprise! We won three big regional Innovation contracts in Yorkshire and in the West Midlands and we started the development of our team of Innovation Coaches
• By April, the European element of our work was hotting up – with Bernd Fesel (Ruhr 2010/ecce) and Leo van Loon (Rotterdam), we were leading on a new Creative Residencies project; memorably, Keith and I went to meet Reinhard Büscher of the DG Enterprise and Industry and found a champion of the sector who was unequivocal about his surprise at finding himself in such a role! But by the end of the year, he was speaking ‘Creative Industries’ almost like a native!
• It turned out to be a great year for seeing the work on the creative economy in other cities – I was invited to speak at conferences in Bilbao (at least my slides were in Spanish!); Reykjavik where I met the redoubtable Anna Hildur and the life enhancing Imogen Heap; Brussels, where the audience became joyfully vociferous in supporting my call for more women speakers; Bratislava, (a city which turned out be really delightful), speaking this time at the IETM conference – lovely to talk theatre again!; Liege, where, somewhat dauntingly, I was guest speaker at the Innova conference, Büscher’s natural home; and, at the end of the year, in Brussels again at the Austrian Permanent Representation, again as guest speaker, this time alongside Büscher, and we had a terrific evening celebrating the creativity of entrepreneurs in Austria in the company of other Europeans (why don’t we do this for the UK?)
• Africa was the Big Adventure this year- working in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, visiting Johannesburg and being given a whirlwind tour of the city that just made you want to work there too; planning visits to Kenya and possibly Ghana – above all, meeting and working with an amazing array of ambitious, feisty, demanding creative entrepreneurs, getting to understand the context in which they work – and, particularly satisfyingly, running workshops or public lectures on Innovation in Business where audiences exceeded all expectations and just poured in, with literally hundreds from every industry sector, from Finance to Mining.
• The election came and went – it took a few months for the reality of the changes to kick in – many of our clients were finding themselves busier than ever at the start of this year but as we come to its end, it is noticeable how that is slowly changing – we’re seeing the market place shrink, there is severe pressure on fees for clients providing services, and everywhere the cuts in the arts, in education and in local authorities foreshadow a real and transformational reshaping of the market place we’ve all come to know and love. There seems to be a belief that next year will be difficult and the year after, even worse – time to get creative!
• Keith has focused all year on setting up and developing In Smart Company, our new Innovation service. He is being hugely effective when he works with clients – his capacity to get even the most recalcitrant client to engage in a process that is challenging, revelatory and fun is remarkable! We now have a first rate team of Innovation Coaches working alongside Keith and, rather earlier than anticipated, have received our first requests to ‘franchise’ the service from client companies overseas – Keith flies out in early January to meet them!
• Delightfully, Jo came back to work with us as a freelance – she comes enriched by the experiences she’s had outside of CIDA. We ended the year developing a couple of new projects, including one that is about supporting refugee and asylum seeker artists in the development of their own creative practice in the UK – I remember some years ago finding out that the National Theatre of Somalia were all in the UK as refugees, disbanded and dispersed across London, working in menial jobs with no opportunity to work as artists: we have to do something about this. We currently are working to encourage artists and creative entrepreneurs to work more in Europe – we aim to expand those boundaries!
• So 2010 ends and turns into 2011 – what will it hold? Well, let’s take a deep breath and say:
o The Coalition Govt will continue to cause chaos quite deliberately – it’s a massive gamble but it will catalyse new thinking and new leaders – locally and regionally
o But there will need to be some U-turns – not least, the inclusion of arts/creative courses in the Govt funding programme – STEAM not STEM subjects!
o Creativity and Innovation – or whatever terms one uses for them – will become the sine qua non in every aspect of daily life, for business and for communities – whether the Big Society is part of it, who knows – but you can bet they will claim it is!
o The Creative Industries will find potential opportunities arising as the new EU Framework kicks into life –
o However, match funding will continue to be a huge bugbear, potentially leaving the EU with millions unspent – this will have to be addressed
o The centre of business gravity will complete its journey to Asia; emerging economies in Asia and in Africa will go from strength to strength and will become the leading source of transformational innovation; South America, with Brazil and Colombia amongst its leaders, will increasingly have its voice heard
o The US and Europe will need to develop a new relationship to accommodate and address this reality
o One area which could prove culturally difficult is the overt centrality of faith and the awareness of God in the lives of the majority outside the West, including in their business lives – and this is absolutely irrespective of religious affiliation.
• Right or wrong, I hope you all have a great 2011 and we hope to be able to work with you on one of our many projects next year –

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