Janine Matheson: Creative oxygen vital to city’s health

Janine Matheson hosts an event at The Cube. Photograph: Greg Macvean
Janine Matheson hosts an event at The Cube. Photograph: Greg Macvean
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In the five years since Creative Edinburgh was founded I’ve been astounded by the growing power and ingenuity of the people, companies and organisations we work with. We believe those who make, design, write, programme, illustrate, entertain, photograph and develop are the creative oxygen of our capital city. They make it a more inspiring city to live in, 
a more exciting city to visit and a more innovative city 
for companies to do business in. They help to make it unique.

The annual Creative Edinburgh Awards is one of our proudest moments, when we really get to celebrate those who have helped our small city punch way above its weight as an international hotbed for creative talent. The shortlist gives us a fascinating snapshot of the great ideas, inspired thinking and outstanding innovation breathing life into our communities, businesses and public spaces; into our lives. We hope it is also an inspirational moment that will encourage others to come up with their own platforms, products, processes and programmes.

I’m thrilled to see so many young leaders on this year’s list. This self-belief and drive is seen in the work the Leadership Award winner Adam Castle is doing with Edinburgh Artists Moving Image Festival and Pollyanna building new communities of artists in film and cabaret, and the ambition of all of our Student Award nominees, in particular the winner, Paula Caffrey. Her stunning publication, Pronouncing Poland, turned a practical challenge into an opportunity to create something beautiful and useful.

Driven by more than just the urge to create, the shortlist also highlights a large number of projects and organisations that recognise the potential of creativity for social good. The Social Award winner, WHALE Arts, unites artists and young people in Wester Hailes in their Street Arts project. Across the city the Independent Award winner, producer Morvern Cunningham, is rewarded for her work on LeithLate, generously inhabiting and transforming the streets and spaces of this distinctive community with art.

As an Edinburgh citizen I feel that this movement of creativity for social good goes hand in hand with a culture of openness and diversity. The City Award winner, Jupiter Artland, has an extensive programme of workshops to welcome visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Promoting creativity for all, the Scottish Poetry Library opened its doors to the drag queen poetry night, The Library is Open!, making it the deserving winner of the Creativity Award.

Creative Edinburgh is about making connections, and those between creativity and commerce can be rich in a number of ways. This year’s shortlist includes individual artists finding unique routes to explore and exploit these connections. Taking this a step further, the Commercial Award winners, Nile, helped the public actually design money with their remarkable The People’s Money banknotes for RBS.

As we celebrate the distinctive ideas that have helped to raise the profile and define the identity of our city over the last year, it is clear that Edinburgh’s international outlook as a creative city sets it apart. This year’s nominations are full of world-class talent recognised outside Scotland’s borders. The Collaboration Award winners, Janis Claxton and Pippa Murphy, received international praise for POP-UP Duets, and the Start Up Award winners, Werewolf, teamed up with digital artist Unstable Creations to create a mind-blowing projection piece that wowed audiences in Moscow and returned with first prize in the International Projection Mapping Competition.

The shortlist for this year’s nominees is testament to the astonishing range of creative individuals in Edinburgh. This is a vibrant sector. Our job at Creative Edinburgh is to support the individuals whose imagination and energy drive its current success and to connect them to each other and the wider city to inspire future ambition.

Janine Matheson is director of Creative Edinburgh. To see the full list of 2016 Creative Edinburgh Award winners and nominees please visit www.creative-edinburgh.com