Martin Green reflects on the first week of the Festival UK* 2022 R&D Project
In these difficult and complex times, there are moments when we get to see a ray of light and to imagine future possibilities. As we come to the end of the first week of the Festival 2022* UK R&D Project, it feels like we have experienced such a moment.
Since early September, around 3,000 people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and maths - as well as the arts – have come together to think about what the future might look like. They had responded to a genuinely open call to form Creative Teams with the aim of coming up with ambitious ideas that might go on to form part of Festival UK* 2022, an audacious experiment in creativity designed to bring millions of people together and showcase the UK’s creativity globally. The guiding principles are to think big, reach millions, to be open, original and optimistic, and to contribute to making a positive change, or simply bring joy.
299 teams applied to take part in the Festival UK* 2022 R&D Project, which started on Monday. Representing an astonishing diversity of STEAM talent, it was extremely difficult selecting which 30 should go through. It’s been inspiring to see how the teams that applied responded to the brief – initiating new creative relationships with people from other sectors, bringing opportunities for freelancers and emerging talent, and reflecting the UK’s diversity. The teams that applied offer a snapshot of the incredible creativity to be found in every corner of the four nations and, even though they could not all go into the R&D, we know some of these new creative relationships will continue outside the festival structure.
The Creative Teams that are embarking on the R&D represent a dazzling spectrum of creativity. Each team is being awarded up to £100,000 to enable them to spend time collaborating on developing their ideas. There are people from different backgrounds, all ages and at different stages of their careers. Some might previously have never been able to take part in a paid R&D. For the 100 or so freelancers that are involved, we hope it represents a positive opportunity at a time when whole sectors have been impacted by Covid-19. As the festival develops, more opportunities will be created, with a focus on emerging talent and under-represented voices.
On Monday, hundreds of creative people who are scattered throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, connected via our Creative Studio, a specially designed online platform where they have been able to watch inspirational speakers and experience challenging provocations. They’ve also been getting to know each other – not just within teams, but across teams – and it’s been wonderful to hear and enter into some of the fascinating conversations that are going on.
Over the past few days, I’ve been meeting with each of the Creative Teams, and it’s been a privilege to witness the energy, enthusiasm and immense generosity of the people that are involved.
Our approach to the open call for the R&D Project is unusual. We deliberately chose not to commission behind closed doors, wanting the teams themselves to devise their projects against the widest of briefs, which is to bring people together and celebrate creativity. It’s also why we started the project with a working title – we want the name to be relevant to the content, not the other way away around.
Over the next few weeks, the Creative Teams will be getting on with developing their big ideas. As an independent organisation, we want the individuals involved to harness the boundless potential of their collective imaginations, their talents, their life-experience, their enthusiasms, their world views, their dreams, as they develop their concepts.
The teams include actors, choreographers, coders, curators, designers, digital artists, animators, engineers, film-makers, games developers, musicians, poets, producers, scientists, tech developers, writers, visual artists and more, collaborating on projects that seek to look beyond the current, dreadful crisis, and give people something to look forward to.
To be clear, this is not a festival of Brexit, it never has been. Neither is it a rebranding exercise. Festival UK* 2022 has been set up as an independent company bringing new, funded opportunities for talented and forward-thinking creatives from science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as the arts, to collaborate in ways they might never have imagined. Anyone based in the UK could have applied to take part and I’ve no doubt that when the 10 projects are selected to go into production for 2022, we will see international partnerships emerge.
Festival UK* 2022 is celebrating creativity, talent, and supporting people to make work during one of the most difficult periods in recent history, which has the power to bring people together in their millions in a globally connected world. When we announce the ten projects next year that will go into full production for 2022, we are certain they will excite people, whilst also demonstrating the festival’s positive aims, and the power of all our creativity to bring communities across the world together.
Martin Green CBE
Chief Creative Officer