When I heard about the SohoCreate Festival I thought it was the best idea ever. A whole three days dedicated to discussion around creativity. Could there BE anything more perfect for me to cover on my blog about creative London than a festival focused on creativity in London?! No sir, and so I donned my VIP pass wristband (best wristband ever!), and headed off into sunny Soho – the square mile of London where a huge percentage of people work in the creative industries.
The festival was mainly based in the Soho Theatre, but also used some other venues, including the stunning House of St Barnabus. If you haven't been to the Soho Theatre, it has a fantastic bar and very mostly shows comedy and cabaret. The panels sat on the set on the current play, which amusingly meant everyone delivered their talks in front of bar. I met up with some other arts and culture blogging babes – Jesse from Hecticophilia, Angela of The Awkward Blog, and Che from Indie Berries.
Throughout the three days we were given such a fantastic range of talks to attend - it was incredibly difficult choosing one session over another in each time slot. The quality of speakers was exceptional, representing a wide range of the creative industries: theatre, film, advertising, production, fashion, music, journalism, dance, gaming, illustration and many more!
The first day was aimed at children and young people, and I stopped in on some sessions for age 18+. The assembled audience were mostly in their late teens and early twenties, and were embarking on creative roles (some of them already had some scary tales of interning to tell). They had great ideas and knew what they wanted to do, and this expert advice must have been incredibly valuable to them. They were advised on what does and doesn't make a good pitch by Tim Greenhalgh, chairman of Fitch (pictured above), and then had Matt Bannister from RADA give them a practical workshop on using their voice and body language in a pitch to appear and feel confident. Finally, they were given inspiration to go forth and be uber creative by Jo Hunter (pictured below), founder of 53 Million Artists, a really exciting project which encourages each and every one of us to create, share, and reflect on art we make.
It was great to see that many of these young people also came to the rest of the festival, and got involved by asking questions in sessions. Many of them had been given free tickets from IdeasTap, and I can't think of any better support and advice for the start of your creative career than attending talks from SohoCreate's line-up! Here are some of the talks I particularly enjoyed:
The brilliant co-founder of Tatty Devine, Harriet Vine, gave a talk on creative collaboration with artist Rob Ryan who fashions beautiful things from paper. They said that wanting to make friends is at the heart of most of the collaborations they have done, and stressed the need to find people you share a work ethic with and trust.
I was transfixed by Harriet's necklace throughout the talk, and when I went to meet her afterwards I couldn't help asking about it. I damn near cried when she said that it was going to be in their new collection but now won't be. Sigh… so pretty!
Of course I was going to attend a session on the creativity levels in British theatre and dance! This panel with Old Vic executive director Sally Greene, with English National Ballet's artistic director Tamara Rojo and, and Farooq Chaudhry was definitely interesting, with some great questions from the audience. What I didn't realise about the Old Vic was how democratic the season-producing process was, I had sort of imagined Kevin Spacey sitting at the head of an overly long boardroom table, telling everyone how it was going to go down. Tamara had some really interesting insights into how politics affect creative output, and she felt that the UK's system of partly funding the arts with public money, but making companies work hard to get the rest of the funding from their audiences is the perfect system. In Spain, she said that companies are totally funded by the government, which sounds ideal, but makes them self-indulgent as they don't really need to engage with audiences.
I loved this session with fashion designer Giles Deacon and milliner extraordinaire Stephen Jones, but I'm going to write a whole separate blog post about what happened with them and this Pacman ghost hat. It was honestly one of the funniest fashion panel discussions I've ever been to.
As well as panels, there were several open houses at the festival. These were a fantastic opportunity to go into some of the big creative powerhouses in Soho and see what they do. I went to the Soho Square headquarters of Dolby where we were ushered into their screening room (comfiest cinema seats ever!) and shown several clips and trailers that showcased their new Dolby Atmos. This is the loudest, most powerful 360 degree speaker sound known to man. When they used a clip from Gravity to demonstrate the sound, it was an electrifyingly intense experience! Only eleven cinemas in the UK have Dolby Atmos, but it surely must be the future of cinema sound. We also talked a lot about the growing trend for screenings of concerts and plays in cinemas, and how the UK is leading the way with this.
The cinematographer Michael Seresin was also talking about Gravity, though I don't think he actually worked on it. He has previously worked with Gravity's director, Alfonso Cuaron, on a Harry Potter film (the best one – Prisoner Of Azkaban). He was on a panel with advertising guru, Sir John Hegarty, and they both gave some useful advice – including "Don't learn from your mistakes, forget them", "Don't be defined by your most recent success or failure", "When writing – come in late and leave early to open up spaces for the audience's imagination", and "Sitting on a beanbag wearing a beanie does not make you creative." John explained that there is pure creativity, where raw something is created, and applied creativity where an existing idea is built upon. They both agreed that space and play were important for generating creativity, but John said that there is no such thing as creative process – this is something "we've led ourselves to believe", and a way for clients to put a deadline on projects and bill for set hours.
John said that creative people tend to read different things to other people, and are always observing life around them – they have insider knowledge. But I disagreed with him saying that social media is not creative (doesn't he like people having a voice to engage with and share his work and that of others, plus sharing their own of course? Trying to think of something funny to tweet is creative, John!). He also said that walking outside whilst listening to music on earphones shuts people off from creativity because they aren't soaking their journey in. I can't concur with this either; you have your own personal soundtrack as you travel, and music heightens the emotion of any experience. Even the daily commute to work.
In the beautiful chapel of the House of St. Barnabus three creative women led an inspirational session called "Nobody said it was Going to be Easy: Why the Journey is Worth it." The awesome nineties music star Ms Dynamite was so sweet and humble, and she was incredibly insightful and engaging, as were Kate McGrath, founder of Fuel Theatre and photographer Suki Dhanda. Key words: hard work, passion and perseverance. At the end of the festival I felt staggeringly inspired and motivated; it's no surprise that my creative output had a major boost in the days following the event. What a treat to be able to hear from such wonderful people about what inspires their creativity, and to spend three days discussing creativity and meeting like-minded people. Thanks SohoCreate for such a genius idea and a fantastic experience, and I look forward to next year's!
I was given a free ticket by SohoCreate. All words and opinions are my own.