The Black Country is abundant with creative talent! Sadly, this fact has been overlooked. This has historically been down to various barriers. Lack of funding, opportunity and promotion have all served to dampen the collective creative spirit of creatives in the West Midlands.
Seize The Moment, a conference conceived by the Cultural Leadership Board in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority, held on 7 October 2022, sort to highlight these barriers, as mentioned earlier, within the creative sector. Additionally, the conference addressed critical problems within the creative industry and formulated real solutions to the issues facing creatives in the Black Country and beyond.
Tonia Daley-Campbell, actor, writer and director, hosted the day with flair! Adding to her voice were other guest speakers, including Alice Heggie and Noel Dunne. The conference panel consisted of Tonia Daley-Campbell, Michael Southan, Dave Pitt, Jodie Allen and Gursharan Dhanda, who had valuable input from years of experience in the sector. Poet and Playwright Dave Pitt also performed his thought-provoking brand of poetry.
The themes running through the day included; barriers to entry into the creative industry, solutions and case studies, which included exciting projects based in the Thames Estuary Region. Speakers and guests keenly shared how their projects have positively impacted participants’ lives.
Conference-goers had the opportunity to workshop ideas and solutions as well as network. One of the conference’s main aims is to bring greater unity within the sector to heighten awareness of opportunities for would-be creatives to find avenues into training and paid work.
A representative from F.A.N – Freelance Artists Network – a newly formed initiative in the Black Country, also spoke briefly about their work. The two main aims of F.A.N are; to represent freelance creatives in the Black Country to the broader sector and showcase the immense talent on offer in the Black Country. Equally impressively is F.A.N’s ethos to support and nurture creatives who are new to the industry.
Seize The Moment host Tonia Daley-Campbell, passionately expressed her desire to see a move from talking about issues to taking action and continue taking action to progress towards real change.
Kallum Wright, Head of Film at LearnPlay Foundation added, “The event was a wonderful opportunity to hear about the experiences of other creatives, about the various programmes and initiatives being run to help young creatives and about the future of creativity in the West Midlands.
During a time when creative industries and initiatives are first on the chopping block, I think events like the CLB Conference are extremely important to highlight how creative endeavours aren’t some economic burden, but how they can create real value for the region.
What stood out most to me about the event was the panel discussion. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences dealing with challenges and barriers in the creative industry really spoke to me and was very enlightening. Michael spoke about an experience he had where a programme provider didn’t properly take into account his disability and simply told him to “Just try”. While I don’t have a disability, I think this is endemic of a wider problem in the industry where the individual strengths and capabilities of young creatives aren’t considered and instead, they are shoehorned into existing programmes and roles. It was very illuminating to hear this highlighted.”
Jerrel Jackson, a member of the Cultural Leadership Board, ended the conference by stating, “As part of the Cultural Leadership Board, we will now consider everything that’s been shared today and identify opportunities where we could work together with the West Midlands Combined Authority to develop these actions.”