It was 22 degrees on 22 June this year and thousands of people filled Cardiff Castle’s grounds with hundreds more queuing patiently outside. Tafwyl was bursting at the seams and I was a week away from beginning my new role as Project Manager with Creative Cardiff. I joined the queue with my friend Ffion, a children’s theatre producer, and took the opportunity to ask: “What does Creative Cardiff mean to you?”.

“Ah” she said, “I found my most recent job through their website – that’s such a valuable resource but… I guess I’d like to learn more about what else they actually do!”. This was quite a common response when I asked friends in the creative community to tell me what they knew about the organisation before I joined.

In the last four years, the organisation has surpassed landmark figures of more than 2900 members of our creative city network, organised more than 50 events and developed a strong online presence.

With my appointment as Project Manager, we’ve taken the time to reflect upon and analyse what we, our partners and of course, the creative community need and want from the network and looked at how we can best share our activity so that my friend Ffion and others have a better understanding and can be more involved.

Creative Cardiff’s vision is for the city to be recognised as not just one of but the capital of creativity in the UK. This ambition is typical of the team here and was one of the many appealing aspects of joining this inspiring group of people. Our updated research of similar creative city networks in cities across the UK shows us this aim will be challenging, given the growth in the creative industries happening elsewhere (and globally too).

We are keen to unite the leaders of each of these networks soon in order to strengthen our position and that of the wider creative economy which covers all forms of creative work, whether that's in creative industries like television or other businesses, like insurance or the motor industry, which increasingly depend upon creativity for their commercial success. 

Over the course of my first two months, I have had many meetings, chats and walks around the (City Hall) block with Sara and Kayleigh – the women whose energy, focus, warmth and brilliance has led the organisation this far. They have explained some of the changes and developments that they have witnessed in the creative community (and wider city) since Creative Cardiff’s inception in 2015.  

I wanted my reflections on the organisation to be influenced by the city and its culture. I made it my mission to consume as much culture as possible and that was quite easy in a summer jam-packed with wonderful offerings such as Tafwyl, Hub festival and Butetown carnival.

A few weeks into my new role, I attended a meet-up event hosted in Butetown Community Centre. “Cardiff is a racist city” - a statement hit me right in the gut. The session was an open call-out to start a network for people from the BAME community interested in working in film and television and one of the attendees stood up and made this remark. I reminded myself why I had gone to the meeting in the first place – to listen, and to see what more Creative Cardiff could be doing to connect creative individuals and organisations from all parts of the city and to make sure to challenge mine and the organisation’s assumptions.

Within a month of being in the job, I had organised a set of facilitated focus groups, made up of freelancers and organisations. The findings were fruitful, and I found it a useful way to introduce myself and get a view of things from the people who matter most – the creative community. The attendees see Creative Cardiff as having the potential to be a ‘one stop shop’ for trusted information and non-financial support. Many expressed their desire to know more about ‘space’ to work in and ‘space’ to share ideas and opportunities leading us to conclude there is still a desire for Creative Cardiff to continue our work to support, profile and champion creative spaces in the city.

We have matched the feedback from the focus groups with some focused analysis carried out by student intern Urszula Rodakowska, of Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture, on the current user journey of our website which will result in a new look and interactive feel which we hope our community will like and benefit from.  

Another takeaway from my research is that Cardiff’s events landscape feels different now with the city having successfully hosted numerous large-scale, high-profile major events in recent years. There are also now many more meet-ups and events led by, and for, the creative community – perhaps nearing the point of saturation. Time and resources are ever tighter for creative individuals in the city, so we want to raise the profile and impact of our events - exciting and energising our community in the process.  

My work aligned with the build-up to the launch of the first funded cohort from the Clwstwr project – a multimillion pound investment programme into innovation in the screen sector here in South Wales. With some of the Creative Cardiff team working across the Clwstwr project too, we have been able to include findings from that process into our decisions; such as identifying the need to increase creative individuals’ understanding of enterprise and to develop existing, and support new, creative entrepreneurs. This new strand of work will feed into our programme of events and resources.

In my first three months, the research has been carried out and feedback gathered. We’ve made a plan and selected our areas of focus.

So, we are inviting individuals from the creative community to apply to join us on the journey as part of a new advisory group. We want to seek out and engage the most energised and committed members of the creative community who are keen to be part of the Creative Cardiff journey. The advisory group will reflect upon our work and plans, challenge us, fire our ambitions and aspirations, share our passion, and help spread the word about Cardiff’s creative economy, at home and further afield.

You can find out more about becoming part of our advisory group here – we’d love to hear your take on what we offer.

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