So I’ve put out a record now. I’m officially a complete and utter cliche. It’s called the Hazard Hill EP and it’s by Robert Holmes. Dom calls him the sit down Elvis. Fair enough.
What he is in actuality is in my case an old mate and in everyone else’s case the finest exponent of Belfast mutant blues, hill folk, folk noir or whatever the hell else we dream up to call it.
Have a listen at www.robertholmesmusic.com
Enjoy and then buy it damn you all!
Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the politics, minefields, subterfuge, sabotage and sheer difficulty of trying to achieve creative goals. This is especially true when everyone (or at very least a lot of people) are chasing the same £5 note around the block, such is the scarce nature of work(or other means of income) in what’s been dubbed the Creative Industries in NI.
Additionally, those who have achieved some level of livable income are sometimes prone to a bunker mentality. This is ours and we’re not sharing. Fuck off and find your own niche. I worked hard for this.
Or the worst of all; the ill-informed judgement call that decides your not ‘worthy’ of attention (this one usually comes from burnt out, middle aged men who have no spark left but can’t divorce themselves from the gargantuan egos they’ve spent a quarter of a century building.) That can be the killer, especially to someone young and full of energy. It should be written into the Bill of Rights that everyone, at least once, deserves to have the right to succeed or fail without the interference or patronage of some vampiric uncle figure.
For those of us a little bit older, it’s easy to get jaded. Especially when you’ve taken a few right hooks over the years that instilled the deja-vu-ometer that goes off in your brain when someone mentions something like ‘Digital Circle‘ or Invest NI’s Digital Content Strategy (on a side note, I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually contributed to that. Answers on a postcard please…)
At Creative Camp Belfast on Saturday I met Matt Johnston (newly installed staffer of Digital Circle) and he seemed like a nice fella. He was open and chatty and seemed genuinely interested in talking to people about what he wants to achieve with the organisation, and the fact that he’s very new and just finding his feet. Now for those who remember NIIMA a sharp intake of breath is allowed, actually it’s wise. Digital Circle looks a bit like a sector lead body either now or in the making. Especially when you dig deeper and find that Invest NI hold the lead on this new hybrid puppy.
If you’re thinking ‘Man the Barricades’ I understand, it’s experience talking. But if we’re really to progress then maybe it’s time for a few who have been around the digital media scene for a while to feedback some thoughts.
Yes NIIMA was a shambles and should have been preserved as an example of exactly not how to set up a lead body for a sector (or anything else for that matter.) Yes a lot of people (me included) wasted time, effort and hope on said shambles. Yes it looked from the outside like a select few did very well from NIIMA and then threw out the baby with the bathwater. All of that is true and given, it was grim at a time when the digital media scene in NI needed a boost.
Consequently you could be forgiven for not placing too much hope in Digital Circle, or at least waiting around in the shadows until you’re sure that they’re not drinking virgin’s blood or sacrificing goats twice a month. That’s up to you.
For my own part I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years. When I first came across the website of Digital Circle I filled out the enquiry form. After two weeks I’d had no reply. Typical I thought. I’m a member of Momentum and still don’t get told anything about an organisation that could soon be directly affecting my business and everyday life. Once bitten etc…
And then I went to Creative Camp. And met loads of younger and older, talented, fired up, wise, entrepreneurial, savvy, cultured and progressive people giving speeches, sharing secrets of their trades, giving very impassioned manifestos and ideas freely and without prejudice to the people around them. I couldn’t help but think that if half of the people in that room on Saturday had been involved with NIIMA it could have been a roaring success.
So when it comes to Digital Circle, the trick is to make sure that happens, to get a wide school of people and viewpoints on board and to make sure that it is representative and accountable to the sector, companies and folk it will be representing and that voices from across the wide digital media spectrum get heard.
“The Creative Industries in NI are now bigger than agriculture,” as I was told by a smug Invest NI bloke a while back in a back corridor where a lot of the real deals are done. He was taking a lot of credit for that fact too.
It’s about time that the credit went where it is due and Digital Circle can perhaps help in bridging the gap between great underground events in Blick Studios on a Saturday afternoon and the level of support the sector has earned and deserves from government and beyond. It’s there, let’s get on board and use it.
And on the subject of credit cheers to Andy McMillan and everyone else who organised Creative Camp, truly brilliant and a tonic for those of us who are nursing bruises in the name of progress.