Saturday 30 October 2010

More on world-saving museums

I was at the Maritime Museum in London yesterday giving a revved up version of my 'Can Museums Save the World' presentation which I blogged about a few weeks back; after suffering a train cancellation and moderate level ticket barrier carnage at Euston, I got there a wee bit late but in time to deliver my pitch. A fascinating group of senior people from National museums had been assembled, and all had a keen eye on what the future may hold for their institutions.

Much of my pitch is about sustainability, but blended with a bit of futurology. The basic question is: What will museums be like in 20, 30 or 40 years time if they are truly sustainable? Will they be embedded in their communities, treading lightly on the planet and financially thriving?

In terms of the futurology slice of my pitch pie, I've leant heavily on some superb work being done by the Center for the Future of Museums in the United States. They've produced a superb paper on what 2034 might look like for the museums sector, and for the California Association of Museums they've pulled together a full 'futures' resource guide complete with five 25 year scenarios, suggested worksheets and some guidelines on how to hold  a futures-focused session in your own organisation or network.

The sustainability part of my pitch however, is all the product of my own chunterings over the last couple of years. I genuinely see the world I know well (sustainability) and the world I am getting to know better (culture) as natural collaborators, if not wholly intertwined players in creating a better future. These two gorgeous worlds, bastions of progressive thinking, are of course arrayed against a third universe of infamy: the world that thinks economic growth and perpetual materialism are the only things that make life worth living.

Anyway so here are the key points:
  1. Happiness and wealth fell out with each other more than half a century ago.
  2. We need to ‘reboot’ economics and find a way to achieve prosperity without growth.
  3. Non-materialist forms of social capital and experience are part of the solution.
  4. Culture and the experience economy can win us back from materialism.
  5. Reaching people, and fighting for headspace, is a core strength of the cultural sector.
  6. Culture creates the places and spaces that people want to be in, fostering a more compelling and competitive identity.
  7. Innovation must no longer be the preserve of consumerist ‘novelty’ and desire but has to become part of how we craft our collective future.
Therefore, it's clear to me, that culture can (help to) save the world. Not least because just like the sphere of creative communications (design, media, advertising, film etc) that Creative Concern operates in, culture is an antidote to the idea that it is all about selling shit to sleepwalkers. I use this quote from Raymond Williams' 1962 book, Communications:
Our commonest economic error is the assumption that production and trade are our only practical activities, and that they require no other human justification or scrutiny. 
We need to say what many of us know in experience: that the life of man, and the business of society, cannot be confined to these ends; that the struggle to learn, to describe, to understand, to educate is a central and necessary part of our humanity.
I know to many, particularly in the current climate, the notion that economic growth is a futile and unsustainable pursuit probably comes across as a piece of sideshow prattling; but it is those that still pursue this ultimately self-defeating course of 'growth at all costs' that are, to use the vernacular, 'off their rockers'.

Another quote I like is from Edward Abbey:

"Growth for the sake of growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell."

Enough said.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Peace and love, Liverpool style

The world's media at the launch of the European Peace Monument
It was a busy weekend for the Creative Concern PR team. On Saturday (9th) we handled the global PR launch of a European Peace Monument gifted to Liverpool by the Global Peace Initiative (and created by artist Lauren Voiers) on what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. We were commissioned by Liverpool’s Beatles Story attraction and also worked with the City, and with Liverpool One.

The event centred around the 18ft monument which was unveiled by Julian and Cynthia Lennon in the city’s deeply lovely Chavasse Park (one of my favourite bits of new green infrastructure across the region). The launch was attended by dignitaries from all over Europe and captured by the world’s media.

Unveiled live worldwide on BBC News 24 and Sky News the broadcast was syndicated nationally by CBS in the USA for live transmission on the popular ‘The Early Show’ reaching a global audience of millions. NBC in the USA, Russia’s NTV channel, Japan’s KGL, China’s CNC, Germany ZDF and Italy’s RAI attended creating packages of interviews from the live event.

In addition the story and images received blanket coverage around the world in print media from The Sunday Times and News of the World through to USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. The team here at Creative Concern also engaged directly with a global audience through social media.

I don't often do blatant trumpet blowing on this blog, but I'm dead chuffed by this one, and by the efforts of our super, fabulous and quietly dapper media team.

Also chuffed that it's all about... peace.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

What is Creative Concern?

I've recently been called upon to explain myself. Quite right too. Embedded below is a trolley dash through the chaos that is my head. It starts with a bit about why and how we do what we do at Creative Concern, before moving onto some of our bits of work 'out there' in the real world that we love so much.

As is ever the case, it's an evolving pitch so if there are any bits that could do with improvement, please send your thoughts in now on the back of stamped addressed envelope.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Can museums save the world?

I'm off to deliver a 'provocation' tomorrow morning at the annual Museums Association conference here in Manchester. My pitch – no huge surprise here - is whether museums can help chart our collective course into the future, deliver greater levels of environmental sustainability and deliver major societal change. Not asking too much there, then!

With the rest of the team at Creative Concern I've been lucky enough to work with loads of cultural organisations over the last few years, such as the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and Renaissance Northwest. They're all amazing institutions and people, and I'm genuinely in awe of their potential to reach out and touch people, to open minds and, possibly, help us create a better world. Even in the 'Age of Austerity' there can be no other mission with such singular importance.

In putting the pitch together for tomorrow, I found myself particularly absorbed by the work of the Center for the Future of Museums in the US. They've done some great 'futurology' work recently and I think that they're a fine model to follow; the 'Tomorrow in the Golden State' report is worth reading, if you have the time.