Friday, 16 April 2010

Design networks in Wales - why they come and go, and why they are essential to become leaders in the sector

I must apologise about this blog before I start as it will be a bit of a rant... Over the last few years we have seen networks, or loose collaborations join together to create and engage in various ways. On one end there have been evenings such as ignite and pecha kucha which are fundamentally knowledge transfer events. Through to informal quiz nights such as NakedWales' quiz nights, which are a general get together's and an opportunity for people to meet and become acquainted with like minded people in similar fields. There are other regular events setup by Cardiff Web Scene, and the yearly Design Festival to name a few. Then there is a sea of different people all trying to do what seems like the same thing.

Creative Wales, NOCCI, Cardiff Graphic Design Network, Design Wales Forum, these are just the ones I can think of from the top of my head. So what am I getting at??? Well could it be that the diluted nature of the community is leading to the creative industries not being taken seriously? Is it that the lack of a voice within Wales to fight for creative industries through an actual live breathing network/community could lend a huge amount of weight to funding applications, changes in the sector and general changes. The ability to share knowledge gain contacts and generally raise the standard of creative work in Wales. There also seems to be a reticence to 'join in', from first hand experience trying to support ventures such as NakedWales, Cardiff Design Festival and more recently Creative Wales. These events are hard to get people involved and contribute, and even getting people to actually just turn up is hard enough. So the question I guess is two fold:

- Why do people not want to involve themselves in events that will help them professionally?

- How come there are very few doer's


Foomandoonian said...

I wonder what it would take to get them to unify?

Unknown said...

I find exactly the same problem with Cardiff Web Scene and Ignite, it's so hard to get people to speak, turn up or even just support. There seems to be a general reluctance to join in, it's hard work and your right, if everyone was more supportive and got together collectively, the industry might be taken more seriously.

omo said...

well now - I beg to differ! I think it's quite the opposite. In my experience running the Cardiff Design Festival there has been an enthusiasm to join in and contribute time and energy to make things happen - often from the other similar networks. There may be only a few people who take alead but together we are able to cross fertilise and reach overlapping audiences - it makes for a new and exciting cultural buzz in Wales or certainly in Cardiff. We've had increased interest and contribution over the last 5 years, still more to do but definately going in the right direction. And what's more there are subtle differences in what people are doing, and there's room for them all.
Naked Wales, Design Wales,Ignite,the RIBA's Design Circle,Creative Wales, Nocci,Cardiff Web scene, TedxCardiff; may be the same people involved but I've been to many events that have been well attended and well recieved. I think people like contributing in different ways - they may not want to post news or blogs but they will often turn out. I think we need to support each other and be generous in our praise for those who do make things happen.

Unknown said...

Julian - I'm not sure what you mean by taken more seriously? is it by clients/public/the sector itself/policy etc.?

I was speaking to someone at the Cumulus conference last year and he said that the German "creative industries" contribute more to the German economy than the chemical industry. Most people think chemicals and automotive when they think of Germany... The only difference he said was that the creative industries lacked an "effective" lobby group.

It is possible the varied level of interest is an unease as to what the benefits would be of joining a network. E.g. the E:DN network we run should be fairly clear - come to a workshop and learn something about sustainability and design. Although I have a longer term and wider plan for this network I'm starting small with a small number of people on purpose. I have asked people to suggest speakers/workshops/projects/programmes and they aren't that forthcoming yet but I expect it will in time.

It's interesting that this is being discussed because the same conversation is happening across the UK now.. with the Design Council etc..


Lynsey Jackson said...

Even back in college you had doer's that principally led and organised forming teams and groups, helpers that wanted to get involved in a small way and were happy to follow the doer's and my least favourite - 'just turn uppers' who expected everything to be done for them and those were the ones who complained and criticized the most!

Even though I am a doer by nature last year I consciously made a decision to get involved/ attend/ contribute to more things outside of my immediate world of design with positive effect. What I have noticed is how interlinked the Cardiff network scene already is.

Maybe we just need to get the doer's behind the different networks together a little bit more to share experiences and knowledge and possibly signpost each other better?

Julian Sykes said...

Thanks for the comments:

thanks for your comments: I do honestly believe there is a time/money issue within the industry.

Thanks for the comment. I think if we get people to meet up more and more then it can only help to improve our presence, I always wonder what people think when they see ignite half way through an interval in the WMC.

I do agree that there are different types of support from actually doing, volunteering and attending. I also take your point that every network should be allowed to work independently. However I do think there is a need for an overarching 'calendar' of some kind that could massively help highlight the activity of the creative industries.

Thanks for the comment. I believe that the Welsh Creative Industries are a huge part of Wales' GDP as well, and in a similar way to Germany believe there needs to be a way to quantify this to lead to further opportunities. As above I feel there maybe is just a need for an overarching 'space' that highlights the industries activities.

@Lynsey Jackson
Big signposting would be great. I also feel there maybe a slight scared feel within Wales of giving ideas away to competitors. Which has then led to a lack of interaction generally.

Neil Cocker said...

Late to the party (as usual!), but is it worth all of us having a pint sometime?

I tend to find there's a handful of "Doers" in each community. Maybe if we all got together...?

Unknown said...

drinks sound good. just so I'm not in the pub every night of the week.. maybe ARK could host a meeting in a few weeks?

we meet every wednesday in a pub.

what do you think Julian?

Julian Sykes said...

@ Neil Cocker

Sorry I have not got back sooner. All of this sounds very encouraging. Drinks sounds good and also a general chat about maybe how we can create a strong 'calendar' of events... perhaps?

can anyone who would like to meet-up email I will also email perhaps for next wednesday?