Stimulating fresh thinking launched its first creative business hub event #UnlockingCreativity at its venue Pavilion Dance on Monday, 16 March 2015.  Gathered were Bournemouth’s leading digital, design, animation and marketing agencies and freelancers, seeking to form connections in its stimulating arts space dedicated to dance.

First on was Matt Desmier, director of Wise Old Uncle, which runs the Silicon Beach conference and the regular “meetdraw” events for designers, students and top digital agencies to curate new content, and is now a government adviser on the UK’s digital economy.  Matt is also part of the of the Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace scheme which connects tech start-ups to potential investors at Buckingham Palace.

UK Government: Bournemouth and Poole is the UK’s fastest growing digital hub

At the heart of Matt’s argument is that Bournemouth should celebrate its position as the UK’s fastest growing fastest-growing digital hub.  He lobbied Government for Bournemouth and Poole to be included in the Cabinet Office’s recent Tech Nation Report.  According to TechCity , the digital economy accounts for 7.5% of the UK workforce and in the eyes of the press, most of that talent works in trendy Shoreditch/Hackney in London and MediaCity in Manchester.  But that’s not the case.  Bournemouth has a major track record as creative centre by the sea – Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in Westbourne, Tolkien lived in Poole, and Marconi created the wireless transmitter and tested it at the Haven Hotel in Sandbanks.     

Bournemouth agency Crowd is doing well in the Middle East and recently opened an office in San Francisco. County Gates-based developer 3 Sided Cube produced a hurricane notification app that became the most downloaded in the world. Amuzo produces Lego’s online games.

Oscar winners and great work here in Bournemouth

“We must as a region, promote the great stuff that’s going on around here,” Matt said.  He added that digital businesses were expanding and optimistic about the future. There are two great universities contributing to the growth in this talent: AUB and Bournemouth University, whose animation graduates have won Oscars again this year for the movies Gravity, Avatar and Interstellar.  Much of the talent goes to London but there is a lot going on now that might tempt them to stay in Bournemouth. 

74% of digital companies in the UK operate outside of London and Bournemouth is now the fastest growing region, up by 212% and getting stronger with 7,272 employees.

Akram Khan Live: pioneering exceptional creativity in dance

Next up was Farooq Choudhry, Producer at Akram Khan Live Dance.   Farooq started his professional career as a dancer in the 1908s and 90s and won Asian Achievement Award for his work in 1988.  After retiring as a dancer he completed an MA in Arts Management from City University. A year later he teamed up with Akram Khan, remortgaged his house, and co-founded Akram Khan Company, which now has a turnover of £10 million and approximately 90 employees.  It is recognised as one of the world’s creative and groundbreaking dance companies, working with partners such as Sylvie Guillem and English National Ballet.  He was recognised by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of the world’s top hundred cultural actors and entrepreneurs.

Challenge customers: don’t give them what they think they want

Farooq’s entrepreneurial leadership is driven by creativity at its heart and in a fluid and expressive art form such as dance, he thinks in a human-focused, visceral, adaptable and instinctive patterns.  Dancers, unlike FMCG products, are physical, living instruments that are shaped by their experience, environment, shaped by generations that have gone before. Akram Khan’s business models are used as case studies by London Business School.  Unlike traditional marketing models that entail rigorous market research, Farooq believes it is essential not to give the customer what they think they want – but to challenge them and stretch their thinking.    Creatives need to take a global perspective.  There’s often pressure to be led down the path of efficiency and performance management to achieve shorter-term outcomes.

Leap into the unknown

Farooq sees that fast-tracking decision-making and adopting a nimble approach to management helps to keep the organisation dynamic and fresh.  Running a creative business is a passionate, driven and emotional undertaking – as much as being prepared to leap into the unknown.  Rather than scaring off potential partners and colleagues, this stance often makes organisations more attractive places to work and create the right platform to explore fresh thinking.

Natasha Tobin

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