IGNITE Festival of Creativity 2020
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Showcasing employability, placemaking and new economy projects across Plymouth 2020

Creating a platform to connect graduates with industry

These early successes highlighted the most valuable parts of the first festival: creating a platform to connect graduates with industry, an aspect that all partners agreed merited increased attention in 2020. As a result, the team decided to recruit a creative producer and business development lead who could take the festival to the next level and increase the opportunities generated for graduates. That producer was Dan Howson, who brought to the project 25 years of experience working with global brands and individuals, including Sir Paul McCartney, Manchester United, MTV, Jaguar Land Rover and the Glastonbury Festival.

Fostering connections between the students and local industry

Dan's first task was to ensure that IGNITE was fostering connections between the students and local industry, to help graduates move into professional practice and to highlight the importance of interdisciplinary activity, principally between the creative industries and other key economic sectors in the region. For that to happen, it was vital that a platform be established to help creative graduates connect with industries not traditionally associated with art, design and media. From marine to manufacturing, healthcare to housing, the challenge was to help business leaders and entrepreneurs to better understand the value of creative problem-solving techniques. NESTA studies have shown that creative graduates are highly resistant to the risk of losing their jobs due to the automation of routine tasks and can bring tremendous value into businesses. And matching creative graduates with career progression opportunities within the South West is the best way to ensure that the region retains their talents and skills.

Connecting creative graduates to other key economic sectors

This focus on connecting creative graduates to industries not typically associated with the arts has since been overwhelmingly validated. For example, in the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report on COVID-19 and the cultural and creative sectors, experts noted that the pandemic has highlighted that “education can benefit from advances in cultural and creative sectors, particularly in the use of new digital tools that build on gaming technologies and new forms of cultural content”. It also noted that “health care and social services can benefit from greater linkages with cultural and creative sectors to improve wellbeing, prevent illness or delay its onset, favour the adoption of healthy habits, and prevent social isolation, among others”.

Ian Hutchinson, Head of Development, PCA
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“We would like to see how we can extend Ignite now. It is important to have the physical show, a lot of students’ work is artefact-based and needs to be seen directly. Next year though it might be a number of smaller events rather than one big show, which will make that element much more flexible in the face of any more Covid constraints.”

Home and remote working opening a myriad of opportunities

Additionally, the pandemic of 2020 has changed the ways that people work, with a massive increase in home and remote working opening a myriad of opportunities for skilled graduates who no longer need to relocate to attend every career opportunity in person. Evidence of this can be seen clearly in the ways that academics at both University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art adapted by offering new opportunities to students online.  

Digital visiting lecturer series

For example, Plymouth College of Arts School of Arts + Media a new Digital Visiting Lecturer series was launched for students, which included interactive talks with industry experts such as Maria Norman, Head of the BBC Natural History Unit (whose CV boasts Blue Planet Live, Animals with Cameras, Dynasties, and Seven Worlds One Planet), and foam sculptor Richardo Paiz, who has worked on sets, environments and props for productions including Avengers and From Dusk Till Dawn.

Global reach of businesses

Throughout the pandemic, the global reach of businesses in Plymouth has been demonstrated time and time again. This was no surprise for leaders within the city, following last year’s announcement that Plymouth had become the UK’s first city to join the Fab City network. It is now plugged into a network of cities, regions and countries that have pledged to work towards producing everything they consume by 2054, in an initiative led by IGNITE Festival of Creativity partners University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art alongside Plymouth City Council and the Real Ideas Organisation.

Read on about 2021