Saturday 2 February 2008

The Creative Café

I used to have the following on my web site, but it was deleted when I decided to blog via blogger instead of my own site. The “Spring Forward” was 2007
“During the Spring Forward night I did not sleep, but I did have a dream. My mind raced.
The hunters have hunted and the gatherers have gathered and it is time to be around the camp-fire and drum, tell stories, sing, dance, make music and pictures.
Every town – at least every university town and cathedral city - should have a Creative Café. They would be good at airports too. Ideally, everyone in the world should be within an hour of a Creative Café.
These are cafes where anyone can go to drink coffee, eat cakes and other such, a little in the way that the Viennese coffee houses used to operate. These locations would also be licensed. There people can meet to discuss creative ideas or just soak up the creative ideas of others. Typically, writers would meet to share writing and experiences. Artists may display their work as the café area doubles us as a gallery. A shop may be present to sell creatively produced items, items produced by the famous and the less-well known as appropriate to each location.
Less conventional forms of creativity should be made welcome, and the visitors should not just be those actively engaged in creative activities. Yet the atmosphere in the places should foster creative activity. This already exists in some places I know already: Costa (Dylan’s) Upper Bangor, Dylan’s, Main Arts Building, University of Wales, Bangor, The Belle Vue, Bangor, Papillon, Bangor, Starbucks across the globe, the Sherlock Holmes Hotel, Baker St, London, the IBM Club, Hursley, the Café Parisien, Portsmouth, the Poetry Café, London, Butler’s Chocolate Café, Dublin Airport and the various locations of the Intermind Group, the University of Wales, Bangor.
But the location is important. Where Creative Cafés are found in a university town, they must be available for town and gown, and not out of sight of the public, hidden on a university campus. Some will be cafés that are already there. Others will be purpose made and typically, they will be in converted chapels, old barns, converted mills or state of the art modern buildings. Conversions will be tastefully done, in an environmentally friendly way. Getting it right will be more important than money, though no one’s business should suffer because of it, and may even benefit indirectly finacially because of added value. There will not be a formula – each one will suit its location. They will all be stamped with the Creative Café logo – if that is what we choose to call it. Even the catering should be local and creatively in-keeping.
Events may take place there – poetry readings, book launches, viewings of art and sculpture, soap-boxing of creative solutions, theatre performances, film screenings, recitals, exhibitions, concerts, conventional or less conventional – at any time of the day, but from 8.00 a.m until 11.00 p.m, or similar times in keeping with local cultures. As well as any event taking place, there will be free access for like-minded people who wish to meet together. Some events will be free, some events will make a charge to cover costs, and some will aim to make a profit – for a particular cause to further promote the work of Creative Cafes. Some events will have a fixed-price charge. Some will ask for a donation.
Arts councils and states may support the cafés, but they will not control them. They belong to the people, but the people are entrepreneurial and move towards the highest high, rather than sinking to the lowest low. The aim is the celebration of creativity. They should outshine the French “Maison de la Culture” and be less eccentric than the French “salon”.
Whoever manages the cafes, at local, national or international level, will have good business skills. Their main brief will be to keep the cafés vibrant and running effectively. This will include taking account of finances, but not to make huge profits, unless, for an individual café, it seem appropriate to support some cause or help other cafes to get up and running, or needing itself major refurbishments or expansion. They will probably be hugely underwritten by those who have financial creativity.
I could not get this initiative off the ground on my own. I can’t quite work out the logistics, even for one café, nor find the time to do it all, let alone have the financial resources. There are probably people out there who could. What I can do, is uphold the vision.
The Creative Cafe can also operate in cyber space, and this could be a starting point anyway.
We are all just six handshakes away from the rest of the world. We all know 250 people who know 250 people. Amongst those people will be the ones who can bring this into reality. If you’re with me on this, pass this message on.”
I am actually now taking steps towards starting a pilot scheme, so I’ll keep you all posted.
I’d also like to add to any café managers or owners out there, that of course I would still expect you to run your café in a commercial way. It is the artistic events which should by underwritten if they need to be. I have a feeling in any case that if this all works according to the dream, it could all produce financial as well as creative abundance.
Also, I think these can exist on university campuses, but should invite the public in , and certainly shouldn’t be confined to the campus. I strongly hope also that they will exist in towns – and maybe even villages – which have niether cathedrals nor universities.
And, would anyone care to join me?

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