Carlisle Culture describes itself as ‘a consortium working to harness the rich arts, heritage and culture of the city of Carlisle for our future sustainability and growth.’. Which sounds like an incredible fancy way of saying ‘we want more creative stuff going on in Carlisle, wanna help?’
Today was the third in a series of forums focusing on different topics; Arts + Culture for Health and Wellbeing, and Programme + Place, took place last month, this morning was Creative + Cultural Economy. We discussed what impacts creative culture can have on the economy, and how to drive Carlisle to accept creative culture (embrace it even) and to thrive from it.
Key note speakers included Nicky Chance-Thompson, and Wayne Hemingway – which if I’m being entirely honest, was the reason I wanted to go. I saw him speak at the old fire station in Carlisle at the beginning of last year as part of the Futures Festival programme of events, and he is an amazing speaker – hearing how HemingwayDesign was born, how red or dead came about, basically hearing how their lives turned out, was so interesting. It was also incredibly inspiring to hear him basically say, take some ownership. ‘If you think Carlisle is a shit place to live, do something about it’, meaning that instead of complaining about the city you live in the whole time you’re studying, get involved in the community, ACT like you actually live here (which you do) instead of just visiting (which you’re not) and STAY after University – this city, the university, have in some way invested in you, and you’ve now decided to nick off home? I don’t think so.
The event today also really made me excited about Carlisle – the idea that ‘cultural things’ (GASP) could be happening in Carlisle is really a good thing. After FREIRAUM was so well received, it did make me wonder why things like this weren’t happening more often – but then I did remember all the waiting around for permissions and red tape and that kind of pain in the arsery that was involved in that, and stopped wondering. This was a major point that came up in the forum today, and something that I wholeheartedly agree with – there need to be a ‘yes, can do’ attitude in council, so that things like this could be done more often and more easily. It shouldn’t take years off your life to plan an event, and it shouldn’t take all those years to hear back from your city council either. They manage it elsewhere, so there must be some way to cut through some red tape?
In Berlin, a politician who attended a talk by Wayne Hemingway years ago said they have ‘areas of no governance’ (like Mad Max, except creatively – although they do have spray cans in Mad Max I guess?) and this is something that sounds amazing. He went on to say that this is something the UK is a million miles from, but could you imagine what would get done if we were just allowed to get on with stuff? Madness!
So, currently Carlisle Culture is in this consultation period. They want to know how they can have more creative culture in Carlisle, and have decided that it involves finding out what young people want, how to keep graduates there once they finish university, and also attract back those who may have moved away to study. I did find it almost laughable that this talk today, took place in the Vallum Gallery, the arts Gallery attached to University of Cumbria’s Arts Campus (y’know, filled with the students’ they’re aiming to keep?) and not a single student was there. While this was an open event, and anyone could have came or registered to come, would you not have made a point of inviting some of these students!? I mean, you couldn’t have made them come of course, but invite them to something where Wayne Hemingway is a speaker, it’s an opportunity to network with people from creative industry in the city they study in, and where some would actually quite like to stay – you’re going to get some students.
But what do I know?
The next talk is Cultural Learning, taking place at Tullie House on the 29th of March. You can register for the event by searching for ‘Carlisle Culture’ on Eventbrite, and if you’re a student I am begging you to go and have an input!