Although the Mayoral Election is upon us tomorrow and I shall be out manning the battle stations – I mean polling stations – in the morning and going out in the evening to winkle out remaining voters, I haven’t been obsessing about politics quite as much as I sometimes do.
Instead I’ve been thinking about creativity. And better still, getting creative.
I made this for a friend who needed cheering up (she’s a teensy weensy bit of a Tory but since I’ve known her for more than 25 years I won’t hold it against her):
If you can’t read my slightly haphazard lettering, the question is “What would Thatcher do?”, while the answers are: “Get some nukes in”; “Handbag some lefties” and “Invade a small set of islands”. Inside the message was “Thatcher would kick ass!”.
I love making cards of all descriptions: here’s another one I made for my friend Maria (a fellow Kate Bush fan)
I’ve made so many of them I can’t really remember all of them, but they include a drawing of some Greenham Common Women for my friend Kevin, a drawing of Ed Miliband for my husband and some scary fan art of Russell Brand for my friend Lilah. I like drawing with a black biro or pen and then sometimes add colour with felt tip or pencil.
I also like making collages: Here’s one I did with child number one. It’s a sort of mixed media thing – cut out images and again lots of colour and a bit of drawing. He absolutely LOVED making it – my husband helped so it was a proper joint effort.
Unfortunately I fear that I look a bit like one of the trolls in the picture here – though I did like the comment from a friend that the goblin looks uncannily like Tony Blair.
But anyway. What am I trying to say?
Basically, that I love making things, letting my imagination wander and transferring my slightly demented perceptions onto paper. I like the element of transformation that occurs during the creative process – you have a thought, you have a go and something happens. That something may not be exactly what you’d hoped for – or maybe more.
The definition of creativity as transformation was put forward during one of our MA seminars yesterday and I rather like it. I like the idea that change is always possible and see creativity as a trigger for change. Creativity can involve writing a book, making a film or drawing a picture that makes people see the world differently. Or it may involve a re-ordering of our perceptions about the sort of world we want to live in.
The word “creative” is widely associated with the arts and media – the so-called “creative industries” – TV, advertising, media, games, internet content, design etc etc. Until I retrained to work in education (and got into politics) nearly everyone I knew worked in the creative industries. It’s what everyone wanted to do in the 90s.
A period piece, no less. Call me a saddo, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Liam Gallagher. I some how don’t think we would have much in common (no!) but he was very special back in the day. And I think he’s aged rather well.
Stop it Reese, you terrible old fool.
Anyway, when I was doing some reading for my last cultural studies essay I came across some interesting stuff about how our old friends New Labour gave a huge push to industries like TV, film and design in the vain hope that they would supply Britain with much needed jobs. We might not have any factories any more but we could make some great Britpop records and some fab docu- soaps.
Obviously there is some truth in the fact that you can make a lot of money out of media – look at Simon Cowell, worth a cool £225 million according to the latest edition of the Sunday Times Rich List. But will the media (or advertising or computer games or graphic design) ever supply the volume of jobs needed to keep people off the dole?
Then there is the fact that most creative industries require very highly skilled employees. I’m not saying you need to be a genius to work on X Factor or Daybreak or write for The Daily Mail, but you do need high levels of literacy, stamina and the ability to work with some of the most egotistical people on the planet. It also helps if you have some money behind you as the work is badly paid at entry level and based on short term contracts/freelance work unless you hit the absolute pinnacle of these professions. If you want to get the sort of regular money needed to pay rent or a mortgage or have kids or save for your old age, the creative industries are not really going to be your salvation.
Having said that, I have no hesitation in encouraging young people to have a go, because the work can be great and the money can be pretty good if you hit a winning streak. I loved working in telly because it allowed me to meet some amazing people. Let’s face it, would I have met MC Hammer hanging out in Kentish Town?
Gotta love the Hammer. I also climbed to the top of the BT Tower (it was cold and windy) and traveled all over the place. I met strange expats in Estonia and got burnt to a crisp when I fell asleep on Bondi Beach (a GMTV jolly).
I’m sorry if this makes me sound boastful and smug – all I’m trying to do is communicate that the creative industries can give you brilliant experiences. It just didn’t work out for me when I had kids – the working all hours craziness doesn’t really cut it when you’re worrying about the nursery pick up.
It’s a shame that it has to be this way, but without a major push from government it’s unlikely that working patterns will change in the creative industries. There are always tons of young people desperate to have a go – and if necessary work for nothing – so pressure is not going to come from employees. Employers like the status quo: hire when the work comes in and then let the worker go when the project’s over. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this became the norm in lots of other industries, especially when we have a regime that sees employment law as hostile to “competition”.
It does seem rather a shame that all these “creatives” – with all their imagination and talent to transform – are trapped within an industry largely controlled by enormous corporations such as Apple, News Corp, Endemol, Viacom and so on. Yes, the products are great, but how much of that transforming energy is allowed ever to hit the screen or the page? TV documentaries have been turned into “formats” – which are intellectual property in a way that films about something are not. Books are turned into films, which are turned into games, which are turned into children’s clothes.
And so it goes. All based on this wonderful urge to transform, which I believe is in most of us (if we are given permission by our parents, teachers, employers etc).
Back to my latest creative experiments. Over the past couple of days I’ve been having a go at animation, which I loved as well.
Here’s my claymation alter-ego
I’d like to show you the video I made with my fellow student Sarah Mumford but we put a commercial track on it and neither Facebook or this site will let us share it. Which is very annoying but predictable in this copyright obsessed age.
Needless to say it involved a dance off, fighting boots (with eyes and fangs) and a plasticine poo. I fear making slightly peculiar claymations could be almost as addictive as blogging.