On Thursday 12 April our lunchtime ‘closing event’ for ‘a creative momentum project’ took place at Electric Galway. Following a number of presentations about the project’s outputs, we held a panel discussion on ‘Creativity & Peripherality in the West of Ireland – how does the picture look?’ featuring creative entrepreneurs and support agencies from across the West of Ireland.
- Pat Collins, NUI Galway;
- Ruth Graham, Ruth Graham Illustration;
- Éamonn O’Sullivan, Hewn Spoons;
- Sarah Dillon, Development Manager, The WRAP Fund;
- Sallyann Marron, Sallyann’s Bags;
- Manus Burke, Howling Hamster;
- Siobhán Mulcahy, Co Clare Arts Officer
Chaired by Leitrim-based designer Leo Scarff, the panel discussion covered a range of issues facing creative enterprises operating from the West of Ireland. The discussion opened with the four creative entrepreneurs sharing their experiences.
(All photos Brad Anderson, Photo One Photography Studio)
Firstly Manus Burke pointed out that there are about 10-12 game developers operating around Galway who meet up on a regular basis. Manus noted how Galway has potential to become a hub for games development in the Irish context and the local industry’s ambition is to continue to grow the sector locally. Being a university town is also part of Galway’s strength and emerging talent can support future growth.
One of the key issues for growth however is developing networks as partnerships are key to game development. But it is hard to get in touch with other players in the games industry, such as the gaming media. This led them to organise the first Galway Games Gathering last year and are planning a second this year.
"Networking is the tough stuff"
Ruth Graham is currently running three businesses in Donegal providing illustration services, designing wedding stationary and live content drawing. The Visual Newsdesk agency, which provides live content at events, is a collaboration of illustrators and digital media professionals and provides great opportunities to make new connections.
"When you collaborate you open yourself up for new opportunities"
Éamonn O’Sullivan learnt his spoon carving craft through online tutorials. Based in Westport, he can promote and sell his products globally by harnessing social media. Éamonn discussed the importance of having a strong online presence to connect with your core market when located in a peripheral region.
He focuses on using high quality visual material in social media channels to showcase the qualities of his craft product and notes the importance of this approach more generally to promotion of crafts. With over 13,000 Instagram followers imagery is key. One of his first steps was to buy a camera and learn how to use it!
A challenge discussed was pricing. If selling both wholesale and direct to consumers you ideally need to maintain the same retail price across the board. Selling direct is the most beneficial to makers as they can capture more value from sales made. Éamonn also runs spoon carving workshops and is developing online courses.
Through the Creative Hotspots activity of ‘a creative momentum project’ Sallyann Marron participated at a craft market at the Urkult Festival in Sweden. There she met Finnish hand weaver Annika Konttaniemi who was also supported by the project to participate. Annika put Sallyann in contact with the Piirre Collective, a group of Finnish designers. The result was a unique print for Sallyann’s bags for the very first time. Her range of unique prints has grown and expanded ever since.
"Working with my own design, I’m in control now. Before this I was dependent on fabric suppliers."
Sarah Dillon, who only took up her position as Development Manager of the Western Region Audio Visual Producer’s Fund (#WRAPFund) a week ago, outlined its key points. It is a €2m fund available for AV productions developed in the Western Region of Ireland. It was established by the Galway Film Centre and the Western Development Commission, with contributions from local authorities across the region.
Sarah outlined how the fund will support the development of audiovisual content in the West and help to strengthen the region’s position as an epicentre of audiovisual production in Ireland. The WRAP Fund is also the only regional fund of its kind in Ireland, which highlights the potential local and regional agencies see in the sector by committing to this level of investment. Also outlined by Sarah were the spillover impacts of audiovisual content production, such as exposure of locations to new audiences. The official application form will be published soon and anyone interested in applying can contact Sarah directly.
Siobhán Mulcahy is arts officer with Clare County Council and has been working directly with artists for many years. Siobhán noted how creatives are good at getting to know each other and working together but in addition to this it’s important to communicate the message about their work to a wider audience. ‘a creative momentum project’ has played an important role in supporting this as an advocate for the creative sector. Creatives themselves can someimes lack confidence to push themselves forward.
She also highlighted that many artists still face very practical issues such as access to good quality broadband. Three new digital hubs have just been launched in county Clare which can be of help. Leo Scarff noted the current trend towards the establishment of co-working spaces and the potential these hold for the creative sector.
To conclude the panel discussion, Dr Pat Collins outlined the results of the Economic & Social Impact Assessment of the creative sector in the West of Ireland which was published during the event, along with Assessments for the other four partner regions in ‘a creative momentum project’. For the West of Ireland the sector has an annual turnover of €486m with 12,800 people employed in 4,800 enterprises.
He noted that across the five project partner regions/countries the different extent of peripherality influenced the performance of the sector. Pat also noted that in the Nordic countries they often have dedicated Ministries for supporting the creative sector. There was less need to ‘make the case’ for supporting the creative sector as that battle had already been won. He also noted that there seems to be more value placed on traditional crafts in these countries and on preserving these crafts and ensuring they can provide a viable livelihood for makers.
Among the issues raised from the audience was ‘what next’? While ‘a creative momentum project’ funding comes to an end in May, work is ongoing on sourcing new funding. In the meantime www.MyCreativeEdge.eu will continue to operate.
The importance of talking about business and creative equally was also highlighted, considering business and creativity hand-in-hand is critical to the sustainability and success of the sector.