With everything from Oscar-winning filmmakers and VFX to some of the world’s best ad agencies, chefs, designers, theatre producers and magazine publishers crammed into its narrow streets, Soho is one of the most creative communities in the world. So why then, when the creative industries want to get together, do they have to do it in Austin or Cannes?
This was the question that, in part, inspired Tom Harvey to set up the SohoCreate festival three years ago – a week-long celebration of what makes Soho great. Harvey had spent ten years attempting to set up so-called ‘creative clusters’ in other regions of the UK. On returning to Soho, where he had spent a large proportion of his career in the film business, he realised that everything that he’d been trying to do elsewhere already existed in Soho.
With the backing of Westminster Council, Harvey set up the first SohoCreate festival in June 2014. The aim, he says, was to “get great people talking very openly and authentically about what they do and how they do it … not the Oscar but the 20-year journey to it”.
SohoCreate’s array of events, spread across the district, is characterised by a spirit of cross-fertilisation – putting theatre people together with designers or filmmakers with advertising creatives. Last year’s speakers included actor Reece Shearsmith, musician Tracey Thorn and chef Angela Hartnett, for example. “It used to be the case that if you worked in telly, you read Broadcast and that was all you needed,” Harvey says. “Now there’s much more interest in, say, architects knowing what filmmakers are up to, or designers. We want to force that conversation wherever we can. We don’t want our conversations to be about the finished book or film or play, but about how it was made.”
That need to learn from other areas of creativity certainly struck a chord with Sir John Hegarty, who came on board as chair of SohoCreate last year. “For all creative people, that sense of experiencing what others are doing is so important,” he says. Rather than looking to his peers, Hegarty says, “I learned more about how to run an advertising agency by looking at how an architect runs their office or how a theatre director manages to put a play on.”
And Soho is the perfect place for that to happen. “What I love about Soho is this diversity of creativity – film, television, design, theatre, it’s just this remarkable area. Any city in the world would die to create this,” Hegarty says. “I remember as a 16 year-old coming to Soho and there was this sense of freedom and inventiveness, this vibrancy that was just amazing – I always think Soho has had that unique quality. It adds a real sense of excitement and independence and irreverence to London. It’s great to be able to recognise and celebrate that.”
Soho Create 2016 will take place from June 6 to 10.
Talks at the festival, which is held in partnership with Westminster City Council and property company Soho Estates, will be given by OSCAR-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna), fashion designers Henry Holland and Patrick Grant; theatre directors Max Stafford-Clark, Paulette Randall, Steve Marmion and Indhu Rubasingham; and celebrated chefs Mark Hix and Nuno Mendes (Chiltern Firehouse). Architect Amanda Lavette and playwright Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time) have also been confirmed; whilst author Howard Jacobson will join journalist Mark Lawson in conversation. Other speakers include actors Toby Jones, Denise Gough, Jane Horrocks and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writer Dennis Kelly, director Jeremy Herrin, DJ Annie Nightingale, musician Michael Kiwanuka, director Steve Marmion, producer Tim Bevan and designer Bayode Oluwole.
Creative Review is partnering on the festival’s Creative Symposium, with speakers including fragrance expert Jo Malone, Sir John Hegarty, and Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, who will be kicking off the festival’s Guardian Live lunchtime debates analysing how creativity can change lives, businesses and communities.
This year, SohoCreate’s Future Talent strand – a scheme to nurture emerging talent – is for the third time supported by West End property investment company Shaftesbury. The 2016 festival will host two mornings of talks and workshops for aspiring young creatives, offering insight into forging a career in the creative industries. Also new for 2016 is the Portfolio Masterclass event, in collaboration with The Dots, the career network for creative talent. The Portfolio Masterclass will provide emerging creative talent with the opportunity to be speed-mentored by the best in the business.
In addition, the 2016 festival sees the launch of SohoCreate’s careers fair, supported, supported by Microsoft Lift London, bringing together the UK’s emerging creative talent with industry leaders.
For full details and tickets, visit sohocreate.co.uk
Lead image: SohoCreate CEO Tom Harvey (on left) and chair Sir John Hegarty. Photo: Dom Salmon, firstname.lastname@example.org