A culture of inclusion

Today’s guest blog is from Lynn Barlow, co-chair of the One City Culture Board and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Creative and Cultural Industries Engagement at UWE Bristol.

I love television, I love films, I am in awe of anyone who can stand in front of an audience and sing, dance, act, make me laugh or make me cry.

But I can also honestly say, I have never talked about TV as much in my life – and as a TV producer, I have always spent more than an average amount of my time talking about it… much more.

Now, ‘have you seen’, ‘did you watch’, ‘you have to watch this, it’s great’, seem to be the basis for so many of my lockdown conversations with friends. 

We are all clutching at the few shared experiences of creativity and culture we can still enjoy – like a comfort blanket, they are something to make us feel better and remind us that we need culture, we need creativity – we need entertainment. Its power is incredible.

We’ve seen performances and productions postponed, live and in-person experiences cancelled and museums, theatres, festivals and events all disappear since the spring of 2020. This hasn’t just put a strain on the creative economy in the city – but on the potential to express who we are as a city – our spirit.  

The three national lockdowns have severely limited the re-opening and recovery of the sector – the impact of the pandemic will be felt for several years to come as small and independent businesses look to rebuild. 

Creative industries have the power to drive us out of this extraordinary moment in time. They can and do revitalise our places, ignite economic growth and unlock innovation as well as bringing joy to our communities. 

The Creative Industries sector contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour, or at least it did at the beginning of 2020.

That’s why Bristol’s One City Culture Board has committed to making sure our artists, musicians, producers, writers, directors and performers emerge from the pandemic with a flourishing future. And that the places, the venues, large and small survive and can recover.

But they cannot, nor should not, be looking to rebuild alone. One of the first areas of focus for the One City Culture Board has been contributing to the development of Bristol’s Recovery and Renewal Strategy.

The emphasis on both ‘recovery’ and ‘renewal’ is key. Bristol is rebuilding its cultural sector, but it is also moving to a time of renewal.  

Our collective strength, our collective talents and our collective ambition is needed to help us through this. That is why the Board’s membership strives to reflect the breadth and diversity of the sector it represents. 

Every single one of us has creative potential – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have, creative people are everywhere – but not everyone has the opportunity to discover it.

Culture and Creativity has never been as important to our personal wellbeing, to the wellbeing of all our communities and the wellbeing of our city.

I admire how organisations have been able to pivot to offer new experiences in a new virtual world and long may that option continue to be available. But I also cannot wait to be able to soak up my cultural experiences, face-to-face or sitting in an audience or walking around a museum, no longer restricted to what I can only see on a small screen.