Headstart 5: Creative Companies

Just found this photo on my phone from the last Headstart Day and it reminded me that I forgot to post about it. Oops. For those who weren’t there, the evening was basically about where we go next with Headstart.

Since we began this project back in October the intention has always been that we will work towards a venue made and programmed by the Headstarters, which will be open next summer, possibly during the Olympics. Basically, that’s starting to look like a bit of a tall order – we’re all working in our different groups and it just seems like it’s going too hard to plan and there are just too many (top secret!) things coming at us at the moment, that we’re being asked to respond to. Maybe we will end up with something like the Headstart House, but I’m not sure it’s something that we can plan for – it’ll have to sort of, emerge.

So anyway, I thought that rather than thinking of Headstart as a group of people planning an event, it would be better to think of ourselves as a company responding to briefs.

That’s why we heard from Ian Sharpe, Head of Video at Somethin’ Else and T&B about what kind of work they do and how they decide to take in different jobs and respond to them. Both of these talks gave us an interesting insight into how working in the Creative Industries means you have to ‘contribute culturally’. You have to do things that are interesting, relevant and get people’s attention – often this means working for free, or on reduced rates. This is what makes working in a ‘creative profession’ different from, say, being a doctor, a lawyer or a management consultant. Those professions perform the same services again and again and charge the same amount for them – in creative organisations, the need to contribute culturally means you often can’t charge for what you do. This is also what makes a creative company different from a hardware store, a taxi company or a construction firm. Creative company’s and organisations have to come up with new ways of doing things – not just doing the same things faster and more efficiently.

What this basically means for you is that you will end up doing jobs ‘for free’ or at lower rates on the grounds that (a) they will be more creatively fulfilling and (b) they will build your reputation, making you more attractive to people who might eventually pay you.

It seems, especially in T&B’s case, this never really stops.

One thing that came through quite clearly from both talks was a sense of how hard you have to be prepared to work to get on in the Creative Industries. It’s not just the working for free for five years, it’s the struggle to manage relationships with clients, to remain creative and original etc. Basically for every T&B, Lucy, Edna and Fran there must be loads of people who just haven’t managed to make a fist of it. People who got stuck in jobs, getting shat on by their clients. People who had to go and work in bars and as cycle couriers because photography just wouldn’t pay the bills. People who didn’t have parents to put them up, or subsidise their living… It’s easy for those of us who have been successful to stress the importance of sticking to what you believe in and what you do, but you never hear the voices who believed that but didn’t make it. We are danger of only listening to the winners. A victor’s history.

Anyway what this has made me think is that, at some point in the future, I’d like to do a HS day about how things don’t always work out for people who want to make it the Creative industries. But also, how that’s actually OK, and that there are loads of ways you can put what you have learnt to good use.

I got a bit off tack there.

After those talks from T&B and Ian we heard from Steve M who presented the upcoming projects. The upshot of this is that we are going to have to work out a way of collaborating on three projects;

1. A project where Headstarters respond creatively to the idea of truce, peace and reconciliation.

2. A project that involves Headstarters in the filming and documentation of the opening ceremony of The Paralympic Games.

3. A project about identity, sport and nationality, probably called ‘Two Nations’ – looking for new ways of articulating how Londoners identify with the different nations they might have roots in.
More coming.


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