How important is creativity in a new ism?

Mel Young: For The New Ism we have looked at issues around sustainability and economics among other weighty issues, but we haven’t discussed where creativity might sit in the spectrum. Allowing our imagination to run around is not only good fun but it has also led to the creation of many things. Books, films, pictures and so on are such an integral part of our lives these days. I can’t imagine a world without them. But people say that like many other areas of life, the creative industries have been taken over by the few who in turn are influencing our creative thinking. Is that true or are we at least free in our imagination? Where does creativity sit within the New Ism world?

Alexandra Matthews: Those are some big philosophical questions! I think creativity has to be able to thrive in any new ism, because it’s so integral not only to our happiness and expression, but also to how we explore new worlds and new ways of doing things. The key will be, as you allude to above, allowing a more egalitarian approach to creativity and the expression of the imagination, so that anyone, no matter their demographics or means, can tell their stories – and not just the wealthy and influential. As is so often the case in our discussions, I think the answer lies at least partially in the community. I went to get a coffee at my local coffee this morning and there was a flyer there for a theatre group of young women and non-binary people who are putting on performances based on what it’s like for them to live in my local area in South London. Sadly I can’t go as I will be away, but it would be so interesting to understand what it’s like for them to be living here, now, rather than the perspective of the ‘liberal elite’, who are the ones who dominate the creative industries and whose experiences will be so different.

MY: I also think it is such an important part of life for many reasons and once again I think it is vital that everyone is allowed to contribute and benefit from the creative world. It is dreadful to see how some people try to “own” certain parts of the sector. There is the elite art set, for example, who try to price art out of the hands of the majority of people. They have to put a monetary value on everything which in my opinion is ludicrous. So, we need to create a system where art is available for everyone and where our imagination can run free. 

AM: Yes the key is making it accessible for everyone. So many important ideas are explored via the creative arts, but the cost is prohibitive for so many. I live in London and we have some of the best theatre in the world here, but only a tiny minority of the people who live here can afford to go – and that’s just one example.

So how do we ensure that it’s accessible for all? These exhibitions, performances etc – they all cost a lot to put on. Do we have to rethink creativity entirely in order to make it more accessible? 

MY: Yes, absolutely. There shouldn’t be any financial barriers and this then forms part of any economic strategy, how we use money, how we value things and which links into any monitor of happiness. So, yes. A more challenging area is to ask where creativity sits in a New Ism world. Is it leading the way we develop society? Are we asking creative thinkers to lead the change in society? Or are they just reflectors of what is going on? Or are they simply storytellers around our imagination? We can imagine things and then we can actually make them happen – that could be for the common good or for the bad! How does it all link together? 

AM: I like the idea of creative people (from all walks of life) having a prominent role in changing society. For the last few hundred years, our leaders have tended to be economists, lawyers, bankers, that kind of thing – certainly not creative types – and look where that’s got us. Perhaps it’s time to hand over the baton to artists, thinkers, creators, actors and writers to see if they can create ideas for improving and transforming society. Your point about making things we imagine happen, whether they are good or bad, is really interesting. But I guess it’s like anything – we allow all ideas, good and bad, to emerge, and then we, collectively, choose the ones that we want to nurture, that we believe will have a good impact. And I do think that having creative thinkers will be crucial for creating those ideas.

I like the idea of a sector of government that exists purely to have ideas. A creative cabinet or something, full of creators, artists, writers,  young, old, all races, all genders, all classes. Maybe led by a social entrepreneur! They could have lots of ideas, some crazy, some sensible, and then the people would be able to choose the ones that they want to take forward.

MY: I certainly like that concept. We need to start thinking about creativity as having answers in a positive and good way. There are so many movies, for example, which are about wars or sci-fi battles with death and destruction – it is almost like that is the reality we are inventing for ourselves. Let’s look at things another way to a world where there are no wars and use our creative thinking and expressions of art to capture that and then make that our future reality. I am not suggesting fairy stories – but we need to have an age of positive creativity as we move into a world that is sustainable, fair and inclusive. 

AM: That’s such an interesting idea – we need to create a new reality that is the backdrop to our lives, one which is more positive, more sustainable and fair. We should definitely look to get some creative, imaginative people onto The New Ism to discuss with them their vision and the role they think creativity can play in the creation of a better world!

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

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