My career began in 1978, producing festivals and shows of all kinds from theatre to pop music, from opera to non-animal circus. I was a founder-Director of London’s LIFT Festival, and a partner in Edinburgh’s Café Graffiti, the original Fringe cabaret.
In 1988, I set up a production company in Sheffield, in the area that the City Council had just zoned as the world’s first ‘cultural industries quarter’ (CIQ). For the next fifteen years I was a lead player in developing projects and policies for this ‘creative cluster’. I set up and ran its development agency, and advised hundreds of creative businesses. Sheffield CIQ was a seed-bed for the ‘creative industries’ policy agenda introduced by the UK government in 1997.
In 2000, I set up the Creative Clusters Conference, which became the leading international forum on the creative economy, show-casing best-practice projects from all over the world. The Conference was followed by the Creative Clusters Summer School, that elaborated a policy narrative putting culture at the heart of sustainable economic development. There is more about this in the slideshow, key concepts and events archive sections of this site.
I set up another production company to run these events, one of the first generation of internet start-ups.
I now work as a consultant and advocate, helping nations and cities around the world develop their creative economy policies. I have worked recently in Brazil, India, Russia, China and Korea, and contributed to the work of the EU, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and UNCTAD.
Depending on what is right for your event:
> I give a global overview of the creative economy, with illustrations from around the world. Using data on the world economy, on specific technological advances, and on demographic and cultural change, I offer a positive narrative about where today’s turbulent global changes might lead us – if we make the right strategic choices.
> I make the case that creative industries are central to growth in advanced economies, and one of the keys to sustainable development everywhere. I show that the most important forms of government intervention are non-financial. This kind of advocacy has been thought particularly helpful in cities, regions and nations that are in the early stages of developing a ‘creative economy’ agenda.
I tell my story using concrete examples from all parts of the world. I use dynamic, plain English, richly illustrated with pictures and video.
I pitch my talk at the level of economic or cultural detail that is right for your audience: city policy-makers, cultural players, cluster specialists, the general public, students and so on.
I usually offer remarks about how lessons learnt in other places might be relevant to your specific locality.
For more specialist audiences of policy-makers and project leaders, I can:
> Look ‘under the hood’ of cluster development projects, de-mystifying the concepts and giving practical advice about what works, and what has been less successful, in different contexts. This workshop examines how a ‘cluster approach’ breaks down into a suite of policy tools such as place-branding, business support programmes, zoning policies, inward investment, managed workspaces and more. I offer policy-makers a framework for deciding what particular combination of interventions might work in their context.
> Examine the investment and policy needs of the four different kinds of creative business. This kind of workshop is helpful for professionals wanting to design support programmes for creative businesses (usually for smaller firms, start-ups and arts enterprises), and/or seeking to mobilise business engagement (usually by existing larger firms) with these policy initiatives.
> Look at the potential for cluster-type interventions in a specific building or locality. This is best done as part of a more in-depth consultancy, but a one-off workshop can be helpful to support the early stages of a project.
These topics are best dealt with in small groups, in informal class-room or round-table settings, where I can encourage ongoing interaction rather than limit audience participation to questions at the end.
Normally, any workshop in a conference programme aimed at a small group of specialists should be preceded by a separate talk introducing a wider audience to the ‘creative economy’ as a policy concept.
I can facilitate discussion around the many difficult policy issues that are raised by the ‘creative economy’ agenda:
> City development
> Investment and business growth strategy for the creative economy
> The role of the arts
> Cultural diversity and sustainability
> Creativity and Education
Please contact me if you think I can make a contribution to your event.
More: Recent Speaking Engagements | Full CV (opens as PDF)