Creative Leamington has been providing support to the town’s growing creative sector since 2019. It is run by Martina Bussi and Chris Knight, who met while performing with Leamington’s internationally acclaimed dance company Motionhouse.
The pair, along with their team, have been exploring ways to create new platforms for Leamington’s creative sector and launched the Local Young Talent (LYT) Festival in May 2021. Martina has reflected on the outcomes of this project and the prospects of the creative sector in Leamington.
Our work at Creative Leamington is driven by our desire to find new and innovative ways for the wider public to connect with the amazing artists that live in and around Leamington. Leamington has proved time and time again to be a fertile environment for Creative businesses to thrive in, however, we found that, as dancers living in the town, it was hard to connect with other artists and get a taste for the cutting-edge work that was happening behind closed doors.
A year into the pandemic we realised that many artists may have been able to continue working from home but one issue they came up against was being able to display and sell their work. We also recognised that high street businesses were still trying to encourage customers back to their previous shopping habits after a long period of retail happening mostly online. Lastly, we wanted to turn vacant retail units in the high street into positive spaces to work against a feeling of economic decline.
LYT Festival was designed with all of this in mind. We piloted the concept in December 2020 where we used a vacant retail window to display artists’ work accompanied by QR codes to link shoppers to their online selling platforms. We saw the potential of rolling the idea out on a wider scale.
For the festival we wanted to recreate this concept but take it one step further. We paired artists up with independent high street stores who offered a part of their shop window to us to feature a piece of the artists’ work along with a QR link to our site, all within our branded vinyl frame.
We used some vacant units on the high street and for these we commissioned temporary murals for the windows that carried messages of positivity and community.
One window featured portraits of six local people and the artist created an accompanying podcast where she interviewed the featured muses. At another window you could download a radio show produced in collaboration with a Leamington-based online radio station, which showcased brilliant young, local artists such as John, the Poet, Skatta, Vince and Alfie Amadeus.
We had to bring all of these features together under one digital space and we were able to do this by working with Rugby-based brand and content agency Blunt and Brave. We worked with B&B from the very start of the project as we looked to find a way to digitally connect all of these businesses.
We created a map of the town where people could search for featured artists, participating businesses or vacant unit installations. The mapping gave people the chance to explore the town, the artists’ work and the participating businesses. Business pages on the site also featured codes where shoppers could redeem offers on in-store products.
We were really proud to have produced LYT Festival for our town and the independent report on the festival found that the festival:
· Increased opportunities for career development and income generation for young and emerging artists
· Made meaningful peer connections for young and emerging creative
· Engaged over 70 local artists and businesses to bring the festival to life
· Forged new partnerships across the cultural and commercial sector
· Demonstrated an innovative approach to shopping using tech with the QR window concept used
· Instilled a sense of pride in the local area from both an audience and participant perspective
· Significantly increased the creative and cultural offer in the town centre for the duration of the project; the feasibility of running similar events is now much better understood
· Led to future initiatives being welcomed by all key stakeholders who gave feedback.
What’s next for Creative Leamington?
We’re looking to make LYT Festival a yearly event and are exploring options to roll the model out to other county towns.
We’ll also be working on new projects that will champion our incredible creative sector as well as developing our new, quarterly networking event for the creative community for 2022.
You can find more about us at www.creativeleamington.co.uk or @CreativeLeam
LYT Festival 2021 site - www.lytevents.co.uk
Online report can be found at - https://www.creativeleamington.co.uk/lytfestival