Creative Edinburgh has become a landmark talent network, uniting creatives of all kinds not only within the capital but across Scotland and, more recently, the world.
On the eve of its fourth birthday and annual awards party, we talk to executive director Janine Matheson about who they are and how far they’ve come.
“Our members span the whole creative industries,” Matheson explains. “Practice-led artists or musicians mix with these bigger, commercial creative companies. It spans all different age groups as well; people that are still in art college or studying, right up to really established creative leaders. We do a lot of events to bring people together, to help them connect to each other and support one another as they develop their creative career, their creative life.”
But she is quick to emphasise how they’re just connecting what was already there. “Edinburgh’s got an amazing cultural scene anyway, which existed before we were here – there’s a lot of support for creatives – but it does tend to be quite discipline-specific. There are loads of events for writers, or visual artists, or performers, but there’s maybe not as much that brings everybody together.”
Their network has grown significantly since its conception in 2011, now standing at around 2,100 members. That’s well over double what it was at this time last year, the constantly growing membership due in no small part to the creative diversity of those already involved.
Creative Edinburgh 4th birthday party
The awards came about as a way to recognise the wealth of multi-disciplinary talent in the city. “We celebrate our birthday every year, and when we first started it was really important that, as part of that, we thank our network for their support, but also that we highlight what really amazing things people are doing. It’s quite a different type of awards in that it really is a party, it’s a celebration of what everyone’s achieved over the last year.
“The network is what makes Creative Edinburgh.”
This year the awards will take place at the newly repurposed Biscuit Factory creative hub in Leith on Thursday 12 November. Entertainment will come courtesy of bakery-meets-vinyl-party Kitchen Disco (“back by popular demand”), and there will be cakes from Lovecrumbs patisserie Twelve Triangles and beer from Heverlee.
The physical awards, too, change every year. “This year we’ve commissioned Karen Mabon, who’s a designer who works in fashion and illustration to make a selection of printed silk scarves.”
The full shortlist this year is below, featuring nine categories and three nominations per category.
Two new categories join the ranks this year, both focused on the work of individuals: Independent, for professionals and/or sole traders, and Leadership, for outstanding contributions to the sector from an industry leader. Up for the former are exquisite womenswear designer Judy R Clark, Lynsey Jean Henderson’s boutique art and design studio, and illustrator Marco Bevliacqua, aka Want Some Studio. The latter is between Scottish Games Network founder and all-round games industry don Brian Baglow, former Festivals Edinburgh director Faith Liddell, and the executive director of New Media Scotland, Mark Daniels.
The awards, and the network itself, can make a real difference to someone’s creative journey. “Over the last couple of years you get to see more of those stories: how people maybe met at a hotdesk hangout, and then they’ve pitched for a job together, and now they’re going to set up a business together… We can see all these connections – we’re here for the long haul.”
The Creative Edinburgh network has also proved useful for the wider creative community. “It’s helped Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and other organisations that want to know more about Edinburgh as a whole. We can help with them that because we are connecting a big audience together – we’re open to anybody.”
And it doesn’t stop with Edinburgh. “We’re not alone in what we do. We connect people to other support – like Business Gateway, or Cultural Enterprise Office, or Creative Scotland – but also to other cities. We work a lot with Creative Dundee and Creative Stirling, and there’s AB+ in Aberdeen that’s developing, and Perthshire Creates, and Creative Glasgow’s on the horizon.”
So what’s next? “We’ve actually just been awarded some Creative Scotland money for a year project. At the end of November we’ll kick that off, and that’s gonna allow us to develop some of the areas that we started looking at (such as how we get our members more involved in different types of spaces). We’ve also plugged into a few international networks like in Toronto and Shenzhen. We want to think of fun, maybe more digital ways that we can connect our members with these international opportunities.”
George Sully, The Skinny
27th October 2015
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