Wednesday, 9 December 2009
To the newly opened Phoenix Square Film and Digital Media Centre this morning, for CreativeCoffee Club. This is only its second meeting since relocating to its new home. I used to take part in the original CreativeCoffee Club, which met fortnightly in the Graduate Bar at De Montfort University. I missed no more than a handful of meetings there from the autumn of 2007 till summer this year. I felt that being there gave me a real boost in the early days of my post with Leicester Council of Faiths, giving me the opportunity to meet new people from a variety of backgrounds in and around the city, to hone the skills I needed to be an effective networker, and to find a variety of ways to talk about my post, my employer and myself – often to people who had no time for religion, faith or belief, and who could often be quite dismissive about it and the communities who identify with it. At the start of my time in this job, I was very much relying on resources and contacts from my earlier working life, mostly from my time in adult teaching. Since the mainstay of that teaching had been Creative Writing and the guiding figure for CreativeCoffee Club in Leicester was (and still is) Professor Sue Thomas, head of New Media at DMU, I found something of a ready-made entree for me there. Except, of course, as I kept saying around that time, Sue was teaching her students 21st century Creative Writing while I was working with ones who were largely stuck in the 18th century! Those early experiences at CreativeCoffee Club were by turns challenging, helpful and reassuring, both professionally and personally; I found new ways to describe and discuss my job, the issues surrounding it and the kind of people involved that helped people sit up and take notice, who may not have done so before. There still remains a major "disconnect" between most creative people in the faith communities and something like CreativeCoffee Club though; do the entrepreneurs, media developers, web designers, music and video producers who identify themselves strongly as Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim or Sikh feel disinterested in this sort of thing, that they don't fit in or wouldn't be welcome? Things are changing, with more people at this meeting from what are called the BME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) communities than I've seen before, but it's still hardly representative.
Well, I’m keen to see how this new iteration of CreativeCoffee Club might differ from the one I was used to. Still the mystery of why the first two words are run together endures. There are mostly new people running it and new people attending. I saw photos online from the first of these new meetings and there was barely anyone I recognised. When I arrive at Phoenix Square, there are about a dozen people sitting round one big table (that’s different from the DMU days) a few minutes into a round table introduction (that’s different too). Each person is given two minutes (measured on a stopwatch on Jayne Childs’s iPhone) to speak about themselves, their work and how they heard about CreativeCoffee Club. One woman introduces herself as working with a firm of local architects who have drawn up the plans for a new Swami Narayan mandir in Catherine Street, which she says will be the biggest Hindu temple in Leicester, which is of obvious interest to me. Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director, is looking for a catchy name for the Leicester City Centre Strategy Board, which she leads. She tells us that the City Council wants to move away from talking about Leicester as being “diverse” and start calling it “cosmopolitan”. We spend some time talking about the difference between these two: some interesting nuances there (not all of them positive, in my opinion). I wonder aloud, playfully, how this sort of change might affect my job title!
Because of where I’ve sat, I am last to introduce myself. I’ve made a few notes in my trusty Moleskine notebook (it only counts as product placement if you’re getting paid to place them!) so that I can make what I have to say as relevant to the attendees as possible. The moment comes for me to speak, and the first thing I do is drop the notebook, which skites under the table! But I’ve done this so often anyway, there’s no need to kick myself for that. I make the point that long-standing involvement with CreativeCoffee Club has helped me gain a better understanding of social media, and how that’s reflected in the new website for Leicester Council of Faiths, which has links to our own Facebook page and Flickr photostream; we've now joined the fast-growing ranks of the twitterati and have an active presence in the blogosphere!
Labels: Ben Ravilious, City Centre Strategy Board, CreativeCoffee Club, De Montfort University, Facebook, Flickr, iPhone, Phoenix Square, Sarah Harrison, social media, Swami Narayan, twitter