On the 28th November 2018 Grand Matters launched &wherefore, and held their first panel discussion evening as part of an editorial collection ‘Boundless’. I was kindly invited to host this amazing event!
The aim of the event was to discuss diversity in the creative industry and present an esteemed panel of speakers, all of whom are proactively breaking down boundaries to inclusion in the industry through the work that they do. The event was presented in partnership with Airbnb, who provided a relaxing and welcoming space in their beautiful and thoughtfully designed office in Clerkenwell.
We heard from Isabel Farchy about her work with the Creative Mentor Network, Calum Hall who founded Creative Debuts and The Anti Art Fair, and Anoushka Khandwala who is a recent graduate who’s dissertation about the lack of women of colour in the creative industry was published in Creative Review this year, and is on a mission for diversity and decolonisation through design, illustration and writing.
The evening was hosted by Amie Snow, a creative at Ogilvy and Co-founder of Ogilvy Roots, who spoke about her involvement in promoting diversity and guided us through the presentations and panel discussion.
Below is a round up of the main discussion points we took away from the evening –
– Making the creative industry more accessible was the key message from the evening, whether that’s to do with poor social mobility, cultural barriers or awareness of opportunities. At the moment, achieving a career in the creative industry largely comes down to who you know, and those who have a family member or a contact in the industry already are more likely to succeed in starting their career. This can be one of the biggest barriers.
– To help address this, the Creative Mentor Network pairs mentors working within the industry with young people who are looking for opportunities and support to pursue a creative career, and also work with schools to provide information and support. Creative Debuts work hard to give a platform to artists who otherwise may go unnoticed, providing support and tools to present their work to the world. They collaborate with organisations, brands and companies to exhibit work and raise profiles helping them sell their work.
– Amie spoke about the bottom line; the benefits of a diverse industry are evident, and as one of the fastest growing industry sectors, conversely the access to creative learning for everyone is low down on the priority list for the UK. More must be done proactively by the government, companies and individuals to achieve this and to reap the benefits for the future of the industry.
– Some efforts can feel tokenistic within an organisation, and diversity becoming part of your KPI’s at work for example can sometimes manifest itself this way. What’s even more important than this, is every organisation having passionate people in decision making roles driving it and carrying it out. Being an ambassador for diversity in an organisation can feel like two jobs though!
– Isabel discussed the lack of focus on creative subjects and support to prepare young people for a creative career within the schooling system and higher education, elaborating on why it has fallen to the charitable sector to be proactive in reaching and nurturing those young people who are potential assets to the industry.
– There are barriers faced by some that are largely invisible, such as being an introvert or having dyslexia. A lot of creative people will need support and tools to be able to talk about their work articulately and with confidence. Especially those who have not attended university or had the support from family and friends.
– One of the barriers to entering the creative industry could even be parents. Anoushka spoke about being a second generation immigrant, and the guilt that accompanies the knowledge that your parents have moved countries to ensure a better quality of life for you. There is an element of perceived failure by choosing to go into a creative career rather than a more traditional academic role such as a doctor or lawyer, again coming back to the importance of support within schools and higher education. Amie commented on this point to say that a CEO of a big advertising agency could earn up to £700,000 per year, and so it can be a very lucrative career.
– Anoushka is on a mission to actively address the diversity problem within the industry. One of the issues studying for a creative degree is the subjectivity of the visual arts – in a predominantly white middle class institution, it is hard to get praise for creating work that doesn’t conform to the Western minimal aesthetic. She is creating work that is colourful and bold, and takes influence from her own background and interests.
– Generation Z have grown up with social media, and so in some senses are able to make their own platform and own the space they occupy, expressing themselves in the way they want to. However there is a sense of being let down by society at the same time, this ‘DIY generation’ often don’t have the support and encouragement needed.