On Collaboration

“The future’s too complex to go it alone” – this quote from Toby Moores of Sleepydog and Amplified has become something of a mantra for me as the pace of change in pretty much every area of life accelerates. I’m a musician – it’s what I do and who I am, and as such collaboration is central to how I think about what I do. All music is collaborative in some way – collaboration between people, collaboration with history and tradition, and with performance or work spaces to create sound. Almost all music-making situations rely on the combining of skills, ideas, experience, metaphors, sounds and personalities. Music has been an amazing training ground and sandbox-environment for me to explore the meaning and vitality of collaboration. Collaboration is a foundation stone of both my own working life and the places I look to for inspiration, those most meta of experiences where I get to collaboratively explore the parameters of collaboration. All of which points to the Centre For Creative Collaboration – perhaps nowhere in modern life is better placed to benefit from collaborative practice than academia – the very environment where the present and future can be unpacked and explored, where arts and sciences can collide to provide new learning, new perspective, new media, where the unjaded impetus of the undergraduate mind can meet the wisdom and resourcefulness of those with honed expertise. The changes in University funding in the UK have forced a rethink of so many aspects of academic life. Of teaching and research, of accreditation, assessment and commercial viability. Of creative independence and of partnerships with the worlds of business, commerce and civic life. Of what the ‘output’ of academia should be and can be. None of these are best served by siloes, by hatches being battened and resources being hoarded. The exploration of both the systems of education and the learning itself require us to pool our intellectual resources, to open ourselves to the collision of wisdoms and to pursue knowledge for its own vitality. So the timing seems perfect for C4CC, placed as it is at the intersection of so many establishments, a neutral ‘play space’ for ideas, a messy space for making things, a kitchen garden within which potential can be watered and allowed to flourish… There are so many metaphors for what’s possible in a place like the Centre For Creative Collaboration, but few can add to what has actually happened there. Of the key ‘targets’ set when the centre opened, a few of them are astounding – the original plan for 12 collaborative projects happening in the centre of its initial period was dwarfed as 106 projects came through the building. The desire for 200 visitors paled against the reality of over 3,700 people coming through. The range of partners was bigger than anyone expected and – crucially – the number of SMEs (Small/Medium Enterprises) that were involved surprised everyone. All in, the reality has surpassed even the most optimistic view of what ‘should’ have happened in the Centre. Ideas have been formed, projects realised and businesses started. New courses have been taught, students have been given ‘thinking space’ away from their usual environment to let their imagination and learning combine in dreaming up new things, discovering new modes of working and ways of thinking. As a ‘collaboration junky’, I’ve always felt at home there, felt my spirit fed by the ‘buzz’, the excitement of so much happening under one roof. Long may it continue.


Steve Lawson

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