Something amazing is happening. Festival UK * 2022 invited more than 500 creative individuals, both freelance and representing organisations, drawn from the worlds of Science, Tech, Engineering, the Arts and Maths (as well as the many places that exist in between) and from all corners of the UK, to form cross-sector Creative Teams and then imagine and design ideas for large scale public engagement acts that showcase the UK’s creativity and innovation, bring people together, and could reach 66 million people. It has been a truly joyful meeting of brilliant minds.
Over the last four weeks, these teams, involving some surprising and exciting collaborations, have come together in an online Creative Studio, which was specially designed as part of the festival’s R&D Project to help them develop their ideas. It featured a stimulating workshop programme developed with Gill Wildman of Plot London, plus talks and provocations intended to inspire these creatives to make the best, most ambitious work possible.
We heard from legends such as Nile Rodgers, Marian Keyes, Stephen Daldry, Bernadine Evaristo, Malcolm Gladwell, Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Bobby Seagull. We learned about the historical precedent and challenges of projects such as the Great Exhibition in 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain from Professor David Olusoga, and about how to effect positive change from Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova.
Our 14 Creative Advisors for the R&D were each commissioned to respond with their own personal take on the challenge of reaching 66 million people. They gave us everything from meditations on the history of socially engaged practice, to animations, a documentary on the built environment, and an enthusiastic call to ditch cynicism and embrace hope.
As part of our ongoing relationship with the BBC we worked closely with their R&D team on workshops to aid the creative process, alongside a curated programme of specialist seminars designed to mentally stimulate the Creative Teams.
It was an intense, but exhilarating process. A feast of imagination, exploration and celebration, each day of the Creative Studio closed with a young poet from BBC Words First - there is a special kind of magic in a process like this, a complexity, a spirit of creative endeavour that is best articulated through a poet’s pen, and did they deliver.
Nothing quite like this had been attempted on this scale or with this level of ambition before and over the past month we have been flung into a thrillingly creative tempest of uninhibited imagination.
We knew some teams might enter the Creative Studio with the germ of an idea. What we didn’t want was for an idea to remain in its original state, to go unchallenged.
What we hoped for, but could never have planned, is that palpable feeling (even through a computer screen) of boundless opportunity created by kindred spirits meeting for the first time, forging new collaborative relationships and playing an active role in building a burgeoning creative community.
All of us, every single person involved in this project, from the 500+ individual members of the Creative Teams to our Festival team, Creative Advisors and Board are all willing participants in taking the first tentative steps into a massive experiment in creativity.
The project ideas the Creative Teams are working on – ten of which will be selected to go into full production for the festival in 2022 - will show the real-life magic that is possible when creatives are given the support and resources to collaborate and dream as big as they can, defining new possibilities.
Yes, something amazing is happening and this is only the beginning.
Festival UK* 2022