Cultural Playing Field

Launch of BBC Get Creative by Robin Simpson
February 20, 2015, 3:50 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , ,
Kinetica Bloco

Kinetica Bloco

On Thursday morning Peter and I were at Conway Hall in London for the launch of BBC Get Creative. Around 250 people, including journalists, leaders of a wide range of arts organisations, celebrities and amateur artists crammed into the hall for the main press launch of the twelve-month campaign. The event was opened by Kinetica Bloco – the fabulous samba band from Brixton who performed for us at the Amateo Conference in Cecil Sharp House in 2012.

BBC Director General, Tony Hall

BBC Director General, Tony Hall

The BBC Director General, Tony Hall, formally launched Get Creative, saying the campaign intended to “inspire everybody to make art, to do something creative”. Lord Hall said how pleased the BBC was to be working with a range of great partners, including Voluntary Arts. He said “we want to find out what art and creativity mean to everyone in the country”. David Lan and Deborah Bull spoke, on behalf of the What Next? movement and the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, about the origins of Get Creative and how the idea of a campaign had been developed with BBC Arts. Deborah also explained that the Conway Hall event was just one of fourteen launch events happening across the UK on Thursday morning.

Alan Yentob and Johnny Vegas

Alan Yentob and Johnny Vegas

After the formal speeches BBC Creative Director, Alan Yentob, interviewed the actor Timothy Spall about his personal involvement in visual art and the role that this had played in his education and career choices. Timothy Spall was passionate, inspiring and very funny. Alan Yentob then introduced the comedian Johnny Vegas who spoke about his passion for pottery and ceramics. He said “A creative idea is a chance to redecorate your soul”. A potter’s wheel was produced and Johnny Vegas accepted the challenge to make a functioning teapot in less than a minute. He said “I want people to look at this and say ‘I can do better than that’ and get off their backsides and go to a pottery night class. You can do better than me – that isn’t a big achievement in life. But if it inspires one of you then it’s worth it.” You can see whether he succeeded at: 

The teapot

The teapot

Finally, Deborah Bull invited everyone to take part in a range of creative activities led by amateur artists around the room (which had been organised for us by Daniel). These included handbell ringing with Tim Willets, feltmaking with Cathy Unwin, mosaic making with Tamara Froud, Indian dance with Sita Thomas, jewellery making with Fiona Eastmond and origami with Deborah Mason and Mark Bolitho from the British Origami Society. It was great to see how many people stayed and enthusiastically took part in these activities. I will long treasure the memory of watching TV presenters Lucy Worsley and Alex Jones together with the Director of BBC Arts Online, Peter Maniura, being led in an Indian dance session by Sita. Video footage of the Conway Hall launch event was shown on BBC London News on Thursday evening – this available (but only until 7 pm Friday evening) at: (it starts at 21:10)

There are photos from the London launch event at:

Meanwhile, across the UK Voluntary Arts staff were involved in running 11 of the other 13 Get Creative launch events. It was a phenomenal effort by the Voluntary Arts team which has reinforced our key role in BBC Get Creative. You can see a summary of all the launch events at:

In Scotland Jemma’s first piece for BBC Radio Scotland was broadcast on Thursday and you can hear it at: (starts at 1:36). Jemma and Kelly will be guests on the Janice Forsyth show on BBC Radio Scotland on different days next week, along with the leaders of several voluntary arts groups and artform umbrella bodies.

Thursday was a great day for Voluntary Arts and I felt very proud to have been involved in our work on BBC Get Creative. I’m still reeling from everything that happened and trying to take it all in. For example, during the formal speeches at Conway Hall I noticed that, to my right, at a table at the side of the hall, a woman was busily engaged in some bead-making. This reminded me of the wonderful Craftivist Garden #wellmaking event at Toynbee Hall a few weeks ago when people were eagerly knitting throughout the speeches. I assumed this bead-maker was one of the amateur artists we had assembled for the launch event and I took a few photos of her engrossed in her craft activity while Timothy Spall was speaking on the stage. It was only on Thursday evening, when I was looking back through my photos at home, that I realised the enthusiastic bead-maker was Sandi Toksvig – it was one of those kind of days! 

Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig

I was quoted on the BBC News website see: 

and in Arts Professional: 

Full details of BBC Get Creative are at: and I would urge you to watch the wonderful promotional film at:

Robin Simpson.

1 Comment so far
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Not too sure what being creative adds up to?
As an artist creativity is only a small part of doing.
Art, if you allow it can lead to new thinking.
Thinking outside the box, and how many of us do just that.
The BBC is engaged in an excerise that might make people do things – but I doubt if it will make people think differently about the world in which we find ourselves. That is a commodity driven culture that currupts our consciousness, debilitates our sensibilities and deadens our search for meaning. You cannot have creativity without thinking more on what this world of inequality really is, otherwise it is self indulgent. There is a power in art and art is alwys revolutionarl when its good. Power is also in the hands of the state, economics and the means of production. Contemporary art, forms part of that power by its partnership with economics.

I wish the BBC all speed, but I doubt if it engages with fundamental issues.

Comment by kenturnersqallp

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