As we all know too well, we live in a hard-nosed age where the school curriculum has to deliver value for money. Within the curriculum, creative subjects can offer low hanging fruit to hard-pressed headteachers looking to balance budgets and to deliver on the government's educational agenda. So the question has to be asked: What has creativity ever done for us?
Well, quite a lot really. Let's start with the measurable - the economy. Only a year ago, the government was proud to announce the buoyancy of the sector - not only did the UK’s creative industries grow by 8.9 per cent in 2014, almost double the UK economy as a whole, the UK’s creative industries were worth a record £84.1 billion in 2016. The then Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, declared: “The creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories, with British musicians, artists, fashion brands and films immediately recognisable in nations across the globe. Growing at almost twice the rate of the wider economy and worth a staggering £84 billion a year, our creative industries are well and truly thriving and we are determined to ensure its continued growth and success.”
So creativity ticks the box for economic productivity.
The creative mind, although often inspired by the creative arts, is not defined by them. True creativity allows for a different way of thinking, a way which challenges established conventions and can overcome seeming barriers to achieve desired outcomes. As the poet Emily Dickinson mused: "The possible's slow fuse is lit by the Imagination."
In our city we have the privilege of living and working alongside entrepreneurial individuals in Silicon Fen whose knowledge combined with creativity results in the most extraordinary advances in science, engineering and technology, advances which have an impact globally. There is, I believe, a strong case to be made that creativity is integral to an entrepreneurial mindset and, given the uncertainties that face us in the future, arguably such a mindset will be critical. Another tick in the box for utility.
Yet what about art for arts sake? What about the enriched relationship individuals can enjoy with the creative arts? At the Stephen Perse Foundation, the creative arts are an essential and integral part of the curriculum for every student from Pre-Prep until the end of Key Stage 3 and are popular options as part of the GCSE provision and in the 6th Form. There are a myriad of opportunities for our creative students within and beyond the curriculum whether they be artists, actors, photographers, musicians, film makers, poets, composers or costume designers (an illustrative rather than exhaustive list!). With the express intention of seeking to inspire our students, we value this hugely important dimension of school life. Whilst immeasurable, creative arts in school tick an important box in the personal development of individuals.
An example of the transformative power of the creative arts within the city is being spearheaded by artist Catarina Clifford. Her project demonstrates admirably how fundamental creative arts can be to emotional well being. Catarina, a volunteer artist in residence with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust’s Arts Therapies Service, has been instrumental in organising an exhibition at Addenbrooke's which hopes to reduce the stigma around mental health. Catarina observes of her exhibition: “I hope as many people as possible will take a moment to study the portraits. They are all of people who have... experience of mental health issues, and I wanted to portray them the way they wanted to be seen." Catarina, who herself has experienced mental health issues, says of the project: “It has been really inspiring to help and encourage [people] to be creative. It has also helped me regain my own creative identity, and make my own art again. "
In my view a creative hinterland is critical both for our human endeavour and for personal fulfilment. And the beauty of creativity is that it has no end. As Maya Angelou commented: “You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”