Creative Edinburgh Awarded Major Funding Package.

600.jpeg

I’ve been Chair of Creative Edinburgh since 2012, and introduced the fledgling organisation to a large audience alongside Fiona Hyslop in 2011 at The Hub in Leith Street.

It was a grand night with lots of dreams (wandering around the room I heard mutterings of cynicism.  “Another (another) creative organisation for Edinburgh, that’s all we need.”) I paraphrase of course.  But for a while that was a prevailing attitude that we had to overcome.

However,  Janine and Lynsey (our directors) were tough as old boots, rolled their sleeves up, donned creative curatorial hats and said “Stuff ’em, we’re gonna make this work.” (Again, I paraphrase.)

Jim Galloway, of the City Council’s Economic Development team, was not one of the cynics.  far from it.

He saw the light.

He had a modest budget from which to draw, and for six years now he has convinced his colleagues not just to fund us, but to celebrate us, endorse us and commission us for consultancy projects (when appropriate).

We’ve never let him down.  He’s never let us down.

The cynics slowly dropped away (but let’s never kid ourselves, no organisation is free from its critics, though few in our case are particularly ‘open’ with their criticism).

We’ve done a good job.  Of that I am in no doubt.  And when I say ‘we’, I principally mean the executive team of directors (Janine, Lynsey and now Claire) ably abetted by their own teams; currently Anna and Rachel but also Jenny, Holly, Catriona and several more.

We’ve drawn on our members to help us in lots of areas and we’ve created an excellent Steering Group who soon put us right when our ideas go a bit off track.

Our board (past and present) has been brilliant.  An eclectic, multi-skilled bunch of proper personalities with a grounding in good governance (thanks especilly to Mike Davidson for that).

Our members’ jams, meet ups and surveys have kept us informed.

And so we’ve grown.

One, two, three, soon four thousand (I hope) members.

We’ve travelled, literally, the world – all over Europe, North America and Asia so far.

But it’s been tight; very, very tight – financially.

Each year has seen a couple of stale biscuits and a half bottle of red wine line the cupboard.  Half a box of Dairylee in the fridge.

But our funders, and sponsors have grown in variety and commitment.  Each year that Dairlyee has looked more likely to be there on April the 6th, and not snaffled by the bailiffs.

And so, yesterday, it was with a mixture of relief and joy that we found out Creative Scotland (who I also have to say have been an increasingly amazing source of support and vision) announced that we, and our great friends and partners at Creative Dundee, had been granted Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO) status along with 114 others.

This is a game changer.  Our funding will now be greater than ever before, and ‘guaranteed’ (so long as we deliver) for three years.

It doesn’t mean we don’t need Jim and the other supporters we have taken on over the years, quite the opposite.  And hopefully some of this recognition will rub off on them.  I particularly have to single out Anderson Strathern, Codebase, FreeAgent, CGI, Chris Stewart Group, Federation of Small Businesses, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Whitespace,The Skinny and others.  Thank you all.  Please continue to support us as we grow.

We wil be doing more, but not haphazardly.  We have a plan to help develop, educate, meet, grow, focus and spotlight the creative industries in Edinburgh.

We’ll work closely with our friends in Dundee.  Gillian Easson has done an amazing job there and she too has been recognised as an RFO.

My heart goes out to those organisations that lost RFO funding (and those that were reduced).  Sadly in this habitat there are always winners and losers.  May you live on and return renewed and invigorated to the fray.

For me, this is a bit of a career highlight.

I’ve known, since I met Janine and Lynsey, that this could, and would, work.  They leave a great legacy and are both still heavily involved (formally and informally).

We have a strong, committed, enthusiastic executive and governance team.  We have committed members.  We now have more robust funding to underpin our vision.

As Jeff Bezos says. “This remains day one.”

 

 

Advertisements

Think Hard in Toronto

I’m here in Toronto on a creative industries Trade Mission from Edinburgh in my capacity as Chair of Creative Edinburgh

Day One

We arrived on Saturday evening about 10pm after a gruelling 19 hours of travel and spent Sunday acclimatising to the city, maybe recovering would be a better word. On our way in to the City (we’re staying downtown in a good Hilton Garden Inn on Dundas West and Jarvis) I was particularly taken by the cinematic feel of the literally hundreds of condominiums ranging from 10 to 80 stories in the centre. The effect of their almost universal floor to ceiling glass windows all lit slightly differently was kind of cinematic. it just needed a soundtrack from Mogwaii or maybe Brian Eno to create a really special effect. It transpires that there are a further 135 Condo’s under construction right now in what effectively amounts to a boom town. Head of Economic Development, Ron Wandell was to tell us on Monday that in fact there are 185 fixed cranes in operation right now in the city. A fact he followed up triumphantly but unsourced with the claim that that’s more than in the rest of North America combined. Seems quite a brave claim to me, and to one of my sternest critics, Chris Miller, who poo poo-ed it on Twitter. I will try to find a way of substantiating it though.

Day Two

Back to the diary. On Sunday I arose early and headed by foot in -8 degree dry weather to the iconic CN tower that for over twenty years stood as the tallest unsupported tower in the world, higher than the likes of The Empire State Building. Great views ensued from a deserted observation deck and a mind-blowing experience was trying, and failing to stand on the glass floor. Such a powerful optical effect.

The rest of the day was taken up with touring by foot the Downtown part of the city whilst meeting my old pal from The Leith agency, Andrew Horberry who lives here and works in Detroit with Imagination. It was great to see him and we whiled away a very pleasant couple of hours in the charming Queen Mother on Queens West. Andrew showed me the PATH a 16 mile complex of underground streets that link the city through very discrete entrances, typically in tall buildings and public buildings.

By the end of the day I was really taken with Toronto’s sense of ambition, it’s growth – already the fourth largest City in North America with 2.7m in its city boundaries and nearly 6m in Greater Toronto. We met Greg Bauer from Authenticity for dinner in a great little French Bistro call Le Select Bistro on Wellington Street. Very good, and my first chance to Try out bone marrow. Literally a cow’s thigh bone sawn open roasted and dropped on a plate with some salt and nothing more.
Day Three
Our first official “work day” We met with a delegation from The Toronto City Council Department of Development and Culture (an interesting combination of roles) and one which signified the importance the city places on all things cultural, including its huge Creative Industries sector.

My moment of the day was when the screen industries head was introduced. Possessing the ultimate grafting together of North American and Scottish nomenclature he’s called Randy McLean and he’s grrreeeat.

Our speakers were inspiring in that they clearly had total belief in their city, one which is turning heads globally in all manner of ways including quality of life. I was particularly taken with the theme of diversity that peppered the presentation – a word used in the city motto and represented in not just its architecture and wide spread of industries but in its ethnicity. The council has to produce communications materials in over 100 languages to cope with a population where over 50% are born (not ancestored – actually born) outside of Canada. Nowhere on earth has this scale and breadth of multiethnic civilians and they’re growing by something like 50,000 every year. Hence the new condo’s.

Randy’s most interesting insight into the economic strategy is that it is designed to create “random collisions”. By encouraging collegiate thinking (something very close to my and Creative Edinburgh’s hearts) networking amongst peers and related industries creates unexpected outcomes and meetings of minds between technical, creative and scientific minds. Edinburgh can learn a lot from that. After the long meeting (7 hours) we were given a guided tour of Totonto’s unusual 60’s built City Hall and were fortunate enough to meet outspoken and controversial Mayor Rob Ford’s very amusing Scot’s bred assistant who gave us a tour of the mayoral office.

The day finished in classic Scottish style. A massive Chinese feast at an outstanding chinese restaurant on Spadina in Toronto’s modestly sized and unspectacular China town. Modest in scale perhaps but not in quality, quantity or value.

I should share with you who’s on the trip. fellow board member and Professor at Napier University, Robin MacPherson, one of Creative Edinburgh’s Directors Janine Matheson, CEC Economic Development guru Jim Galloway, Kate Ho of Tiger Games, Dave Sapien of Me and the Giants, Stuart MacDougal of Pufferfish, Mike Stevenson of Thinktastic, Jim Rae of Elevate UK and David Calder of The Caledonian Mercury amongst other things. It’s been a fascinating start with some great people and I look forward to sharing the rest of the tales with you as they unfold.