Carefully designed, lovingly crafted and ready to use… creative participation in Worcester – 2022 and beyond
Written by The Arches Participate Entrepreneur in Residence and CEO of i.creation, Andrew Jackson.
A cup and saucer. Fine bone china. My morning drink.
A reminder. Type. Text. Words. My career. Bought as a Christmas gift. Made by ceramics students at Staffordshire University – in the home of global pottery – to showcase, design, form, colour, decoration and vision.
Content. Substance. Effect.
Letters, text, type, fonts, design, measurements and all that go with them have been my life for almost 40 years. As a journalist I’ve written for every national newspaper, written and delivered scripts for radio and TV broadcast, made newspapers and magazines for some of the world’s biggest companies, filled pages of print and web, made videos, animation, augmented reality presentations and more.
In business, I now see text in lines of code, making great looking, complex solutions that solve our customers’ problems and meet their needs.
And for the last two years I’ve used that creative spark, text and words to help make something special in Worcester. As part-time entrepreneur in residence at The Arches regeneration project, I’ve worked in a small team to make something worthwhile. Our participate workstream winds up in the middle of 2022 and the last six months will provide a flavour of what’s been achieved and what’s still to come… our legacy for the city.
The magnificent railway Arches, refurbished in style to house creative businesses and activity, to provide a focal point for the creative community and a destination for visitors, will develop their own narrative. It’s exciting just to think what might happen there. There will be joy, surprise and fulfilment.
But the participate workstream’s legacy is not one of bricks and mortar. We started our work with a business and delivery plan just weeks before the first Covid lockdown. Then it was all change. Physical events moved online. There were no opportunities to explore the Arches environment, get a feel for the sites and support the businesses already based there. All these were in our plans to create a thriving community of interest around the construction project. A feeling and vision. More than bricks and mortar.
But we achieved a great deal in difficult times with limited resources. We identified and mapped the support pipelines available to creative businesses in Worcester at all stages of their development. This meant the organisations who provide that support looking at the pipeline and shuffling a little so there’s a seamless progression through it.
We met with students, graduates, and businesses from those who were no more than an idea to the executives of global manufacturers.
We talked to great creative businesses and individuals working and succeeding in Worcester. Who knew they were all there? Global branding specialists, an illustrator literally chased by the world’s biggest names, film makers, graffiti illustrators, designers, performers and even a knitter. We met with festival organisers, dance teams, community art projects.
Worcester is a place that makes great stuff.
What brings all these stakeholders together? When we engaged them with the Arches story, and with our collective vision for what the Arches will achieve and make for Worcester (remember: more than bricks and mortar), they fell in love. Not just with the project but with its feel and potential.
In response we’ve heard heartening and passionate talk about empathy for other businesses, collaboration and working towards a Worcester creative cluster (which even rhymes) – a cluster with an identity as strong as Birmingham’s Digbeth/Custard Factory or Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
The participate workstream has met all kinds of targets in relation to numbers engaged, events staged, and more. But over the next six months you’ll see some other outputs of our work over the last two years, including:
- A Worcester #VentureCrawl on Wednesday 9th March 2022 which is a walking tour of inspiring creative start-up spaces in Worcester, with engaging guest speakers/presentations at each one to stimulate interest and enthusiasm around enterprise – focusing on a target audience of FE & HE students in Worcester.
- A skills development programme for HE under and post graduates that might include talks, masterclasses, ideathon, leading towards a School of Arts Enterprise Award.
- A two week exhibition and event open day to showcase work by HoW College students on The Arches and the arch… keep an eye open for dates. This is not to be missed.
- A skills development session with voluntary arts organisations. In conjunction with Severn Arts.
- Design of a suite of resources and training activities that will help upskill organisations in developing strong policies, procedures, and processes to make the most of volunteering, and individuals in developing their skills in using volunteering to build valuable skills and networks in arts, culture and creative industries.
We’re also talking to colleagues and friends in Worcester about sustaining the value and legacy of our work from July 2022 and beyond.
So, there it is. A flavour of a vision, of achievements, of collaboration and partnership, of expectation, potential and excitement. Communicated in words. In letters like the ones on my cup.