13 January 2014back

Creative Internships Blog Week 11

Johanna Shepherd, Wales Millennium Centre

Over the holidays, I had the chance to visit the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which is the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the US. Last year 400,000 people attended over the course of a week, to see 6,000 animals and the winners among the 10,000 competitive exhibits in categories ranging from mushrooms to wine, cattle to Christmas trees.  Agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s chief industries, and it is impossible to ignore how immensely proud Pennsylvanians are of the fruits of their labour. They’re proud of both the excellence of their products (I recommend the cured meats in particular), and of the contribution they make to the state and national economy.

I mention this because in the UK, the creative industries contribute over £12 billion a year to the UK economy in turnover, £6 billion of which can be considered gross value added (GVA). Moreover, during the difficult 2009-11 financial period, when UK GDP as a whole dropped, the creative industries continued to punch above their weight in terms of GVA, by cutting their costs but continuing artistic production. In short, we in the arts sector have every reason to be as proud as the Pennsylvania farmers are, for the excellence of our products, and their value to the economy.

The last thing we should be is embarrassed about fundraising. We are in an industry where we create lasting value out of often very little in the way of raw materials. A few weeks before Christmas, I organised a day of fundraising at Wales Millennium Centre to support the Centre’s Creative Learning programme, and also the upcoming trip of the Wales Millennium Centre / Only Kids Aloud chorus to perform in South Africa. The Centre is a registered charity. A lot of the work we do to engage disadvantaged young people in the arts takes place in the community rather than in our building. So, this fundraiser was focussed on our staff, who work incredibly hard on the day to day running of the Centre, and don’t always have the chance to directly impact the members of the community who our Creative Learning team work with. Our main event was a bake-off, and the very delicious entries were sold afterwards.

I was amazed at how my colleagues transformed humble baking ingredients into confectionery masterpieces. I was even more amazed at how my colleagues showed their support by donating and eating. (It was a hard job eating Christmas pudding cupcakes but somebody had to do it.) We’re hoping to use the funds raised to enable some disadvantaged children to see a performance in our Donald Gordon Theatre for the first time, who would have never otherwise had the opportunity. Again, a very small scale illustration of how in arts we add our creativity, hard work, time, passion, skill, education and experience together to create something more than the sum of its parts, something a little magical.

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