To start with, this conference has to be marked by the amazing organisation, hospitality and good-natured attitude of the hosts, the Finnish people. In particular Kai Huotari and his team at Helsinki’s venue Cable Factory

So this observation gives me my number one re-learning from the conference, which is the simple ways that people can make a difference – just by focusing on what is important – an open heart, happiness, a sense of what makes another human comfortable and the power of a good silence.

The second learning is that we have so much to do to turn around the damage that we as a ‘being’ are doing to our home, the planet. Alison Tickell, founder of Julie’s Bicycle laid out the case for changing our practice to ensure that creative projects, organisations and practice have the tools and need to take a lead to make change happen. 11 years is not long to achieve this as a world, so this is about stepping up to the table. It’s not new, but the sense of urgency is gathering pace.

The conference is exploring three key themes that have emerged through the four-year project Creative Lenses. These are business models; value and values; sensemaking, research and impact. The speakers, questions and comments from the floor seemed to return again and again to the need to recognise the diversity of context, differences in how language does or doesn’t reflect ways of doing within the cultural sector, as well as asking where were the artists and other sectors?

In the sessions I attended and contributed in, there was a real sense of mismatch between perceived usefulness of terms such as business model and a disconnect of understanding about the levels of scale and context within the sector. Finally, we were brought down to ground with a contribution from a young Russian woman and scenes from Senegal and South Africa, reminding us that we have much to learn from both what people are able to do with very little, and also our privileged position in being able to have these discussions in the first place.

There is still a sense for me that some voices are better heard and more acceptable than others. That there was a sense that some people are too busy actually making change happen to spend time at a conference, whilst others that might have found it transformational and yet would not know the value of their attendance.


  • It is useful to be away, thinking about all of this in a setting that is so much larger than the spaces that I am currently working in
  • I am frustrated that the project ends now, when it is perhaps only just getting to the important conversations
  • There is even more reason for SPACER to be out there building new connections to span boundaries and break down barriers whilst doing it without a sofa, screen or darkened room
Authored by Lorna Dallas-Conte, Head of Education here at SPACER

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