1. I assume (and this could be a mistake, so advance apologies) that companies had to self-nominate for an award, as is normally the case with these things. If this is the case perhaps the recycling of the talent pool is down to the way in which the nomination process is marketed?

    In terms of this being “a shocking indictment of the city’s creative scene”: how much of a worry is this? Is anybody looking at these awards other than ourselves? Is this an award ceremony that says anything to the wider creative industries, outside of the B postcode area?

  2. Yes, I reckon you’re right on the marketing front. For example, emailing past winners to bump up the number of nominations is unlikely to get fresh faces involved (esp when they win again).

    Whether this is a worry. Well, in one sense there are bigger problems in the world that need sorting first. Also, the awards are described as a way of packaging and selling the city’s creative sector outside the city. If that’s the case then we’re well represented by the winners.

    It’s the process behind getting those winners that seems hugely flawed. I mean, who the heck admires a city’s creative sector by looking at the bank balance and staff turnover first?

  3. The Council. AWM. Business Link.

    As you pointed out: these awards have spun off from the Business Support for the Creative Industries programme. This means they are predicated on a system that revolves around the standard EU support monitoring form: success is measured in business growth, which is represented by new hires and turnover increases.

  4. I agree with Jon about the promotion. It’s worrying that it’s already becoming slightly incestuous (with no offence to the thoroughly deserving winners, I should add).

    It’s that switch in my head again. It’s flipping to ‘off’. This shouldn’t be about B postcodes, but it’s the usual approach. It almost feels like an award for an award’s sake, rather than being a really useful platform for the rich, creative talent in Birmingham to use effectively, and that’s not good for the winners. Or the city.

  5. I guess out of 3,433 firms (2004 figure, excludes freelancers and those not registered for VAT), 45 nominations isn’t great. But then I don’t believe the broad definition of Creative Industries (CI) that the DCMS gives us is well known outside of policy circles. Almost 50% of the jobs in Birmingham’s CIs are in software and architecture but I suspect they aren’t applying to these awards in their droves as they probably have awards of their own to go for. Likewise, if you’re in TV I suspect you’re more likely to enter the regional Royal Television Awards than this.

    Maybe what we need from these awards are a celebration of the Creative City that recognises the contribution that the creative occupations make. There are 25,925 creative workers in the CIs in the city (2005 figure). Even more creatives work outside the CIs in other types of companies so the pool of potential nominees is suddenly much wider. Birmingham has a longstanding obsession with all things business but how about we champion the workers for a change? Get together a panel of creative workers rather than MDs and business support managers. Some of the above categories still stand (Innovation, Brand, an overall Creative Industries Award) but there could be others:

    Best Creative Team
    Best Sector Champion(s)
    Best Creative Newcomer
    Most Promising Graduate (picked from end of year shows)
    Maybe a ‘Birmingham Creative Industries Fellowship’ Award?

    A focus on workers and their work rather than businesses and their balance sheet might be just what this set of awards needs.

  6. I agree with Dave’s last sentence.

    I own a ‘creative’ company, but I didn’t apply, nor is it something that currently interests me. But the fact you have to be a company (or even declared sole trader) is a joke. Is Banksy an ltd? To win a mercury music prize, do you have to submit a profit/loss forecast for the next three years? Shouldn’t the awards be for erm, people, who are creative or innovative regardless if they are profitable? You are not more creative just because you’ve made more money than someone else. And some of the nominees? I think your eligible to apply if you have more than 1 colour on your business cards.

  7. Maybe AWM should have won “Best misspent money” and “We haven’t a clue” if there were such an entries. Perhaps Birmingham City Council for the “Best brand tarnisher”.

  8. Yes, you’d be tempted to think that awards called “Creative City” would be based on creativity not on commercial success.

    Rich Batsford
    (core member of the creative network and “not for profit organisation” Project X Presents”.

  9. On behalf of the finance side of the argument, I appreciate a need for the awards to recognise creativity, however, the essence of a being any kind of business is financial sustainability. This isn’t an assessment of its balance sheet or profit, just a recognition that a good idea is being well looked after.

    Creative Businesses have to strike a balance between creativity and being a business. They cannot exist without each other, nor should one dictate to the other.

    Awards should recognise success in achieving this balance; after all, presenting a plaque to an entrepreneur who had a great idea and went bust is hardly inspiring.

  10. As a creative living in this city I wanted to enter these awards but couldn’t. I didn’t fit into any category, either financially (I haven’t made enough money yet) or because I’ve been in business for longer than 12 months (according to the rules that means I’m not a new comer).

  11. anthony Hughes

    Dave Harte: “A focus on workers and their work rather than businesses and their balance sheet might be just what this set of awards needs.”

    Dave, as with Anthony Herron, I agree with your conclusion.

    I also think that official figures are often misleading though.

    If you look at either business figures or creative ‘workers’, the way they are counted varies dramatically from one bean counter to another. If you haven’t employed a new person to demonstrate growth etc. These conditions are irrelevant to most creative working practice and new definitions for old models like ‘co-working’. It is obvious that what we have are guide lines drawn up by those concerned with other industries and sectors imposing a system of reward and classification on a sector they have little knowledge of.

    Anthony, “You are not more creative just because you’ve made more money than someone else”. Spot on – either the title of the event is misleading or the process is inherently wrong. Other views that it should be a creative led award for creative achievement would be more advantageous to promoting those who either have no ‘recognizable’ financial trading record or, for some strange reason known only to creative people – actually create with no financial agenda in mind – does anyone remember that one?

    However, rather than worry about this award being misguided and trying to fix it, isn’t there room for another award? Do we really need to have a one size fits all award – that will never happen.

    Being a creative of any description should not require you to demonstrate financial acumen, procedures or achievement to justify worth in cultural or social terms.

    Rewarding purely on financial success should be left to those sectors where it is applicable. Using creativity as a buzz word is misleading. After all making money isn’t always so much a skill as a character trait.

  12. I do believe a gap in the market has been identified. If the Creative City Awards are for business development then why doesn’t CiB run the Really Creative City Awards to compliment them.

    Run it like BiNS’s Brummie Of The Year with nominations across a range of creative areas and then have a panel judge the categories along with a vote for the big one.

    Then we all go to the pub for the awards to be handed out. Job’s a goodun.

  13. LOVE Pete’s idea, as a record label in Birmingham, I will sponsor something like the best artist newcomer award (which none of my artists can apply for) and they will be awarded something plus e.g. a voucher to spend somewhere like p.m.t??

    Perhaps other companies/creatives will do something similar and make this happen?

  14. If awards are vaild, then ones that you can’t nominate yourself for are much better.

    Get the panel from outside Birmingham, consiting of people who know their “creating” and it’d be completely fair.

  15. If you’re going to have either a Badly Run Record Label or Laziest Band category then shall I just take the prizes now?

    I’ll still come the awards ceremony, though…as long as the Villa aren’t at home and it’s not a special 3-parter on The Bill or something..but otherwise, y’know, I’m there.

  16. Maybe get rid of the “awards” notion. Less of a competition, more a “ooh, look at that”.

    Birmingham Creative Spotlight. One “thing” (organisation, individual, collective, whatever) per month gets a massive push through various media outlets.

    Use the Icanhascheezburger model to bubble them up through online voting and then selected by a board of peers. (I’ll let someone else decide how the board should be selected.)

  17. @Ed Hart. The city should indeed be applauding growth in Creative Businesses and it does so in the awards as they stand right now – quite right. But I think the point we’re drifting to here is the notion of a ‘Creative City’ awards needing to award more than that.

    I often bore people at business/funding meetings with the idea that if this was the 1970s we’d all be talking about ‘the workers’ rather than ‘business’. At that time the worker had power beyond their role as employee because almost everyone belonged to a representative body: a union. They had power and they often wielded it.

    Now that we’re in the unique position of having a representative body for Creative Workers in the city, Creative Republic, how creative use them to wield some power. What if Creative Republic we’re tasked with (re)conceiving a Creative City Awards for Birmingham?

    The link with business is still there as well. Focusing awards on creativity and creative producers can still drive business growth by positioning the city as a place where the best of creative ideas are developed, nurtured and, where appropriate, commercialised.

    @Pete. Bring on the semantic debate – my fave kind! What is Creativity? That’s a question being posed at our next book club (we’re due to read John Hope Mason’s ‘The Value of Creativity’).

  18. Re James’s “…young-ish white men sat in front of spanking new white macintosh computers.” I can understand the sentiment.

    CiB awards sounds a little bit worrying to me – this site works because it doesn’t put one thing above another qualitatively. Recency and interestingness are the things I look for here. But Pete’s idea s worth discussing!

    There’s been various conversations for a few years on “why don’t we organise a big party every year” which would seem pretty simple to get off the ground with a few sponsors. Perhaps I’m naive.

    James says he wants to see arts organisations mentioned. Aren’t a lot of them non-profit? Hence they can’t enter.

    If we’re talking categories, how about:

    Coolest pixel
    Most genius collaboration
    Stupidest idea that actually worked
    Most cumulative happiness given to people you’ve never met
    Most money made in one day
    Furthest sticker stuck
    Biggest ‘wow’
    Most surprising use of a public space
    Most comments on a blog post tagged ‘birminghamuk’
    Most ridiculous stunt
    Biggest bang for buck
    Narrowest niche

  19. Sorry – there’s a paragraph in my comment above that doesn’t make sense. where it says “how creative use them to wield some power,” it should read “how about we use them to wield some power”

  20. Paul Burns

    Great discussion.

    Thinking about my own work on creative projects in the city, any recognition would be great, but I think I’d most like to be congratulated by my peers on making work which is inspiring, or touching, or groundbreaking. Lots of the companies involved in these awards make work which is all of those things, but it’s these bits of their work I think we should be celebrating.

    Incidentally, I think it’s also the thing other creatives, and the general public at large, would be most interested in hearing about too, and it’s those things which make people want to work in, live in or visit this city, which of course has its own financial benefits.

    Of course it’s great that we have some financially successful creative businesses in the city and I’m very proud of them. But I’m more proud of the fact that some of them make amazing work, and that’s what I’d tell someone who’d never heard of them. If someone asked you about a particular theatre or web design company you’d tell them about the shows they put on or the websites they design first wouldn’t you? You might mention the fact that they’re financially successful too, but that’s not what would make someone want to visit that theatre, or employ that company to redesign their website.

  21. Chris,

    Just found this post. I have to agree entirely.

    You can enter by self-nomination or by being nominated. We had several people receommend to us that we enter in 2007 so we did. We didn’t feel right doing it because our personal view on these things is that nominating yourself for an award surely is really arrogant?!

    So anyway, we did enter, we were shortlisted as finalists, got interviewed by a small film crew at ITV (during which the final question was something akin to “how do you feel about all the help from the City Council particularly with the funding made availalbe etc?” and were told that naturally we have to answer because they’ve sponsored the whole affair, so we came up with some nonsense whilst thinking “funding? funding? what funding? We’ve not had any of that…”

    After this we had to make a presentation to a panel who we believed, prior to the meeting, were interested in our creativity. But sure enough, pretty much the only thing they cared about was the money money money. Even though we had grown year on year, it was not enough for them.

    So during the awards 2007 we came second place – in our category of two entries.

    We actually had people come up to us after the meal at the awards telling us we should ahve won because our work was more creative than the other entry.

    We came away from the awards feeling pretty deflated, and let down. We had not gone there genuinely expecting to win, but we really believed it was about the work that companies produce. It very quickly became clear that the whole thing is just about moeny and not creativity, and as such, within our company it has become known as the ‘Financial City Awards’.

    As for the night itself, as soon as I walked in to the venue, I commented to my girlfriend about the tacky presentation of the event, and was even more shcoked at the appaling production quality of the interviews on the screens for the nominees – even to the point that they got our name wrong. Then to make things worse, they spend more time and energy bigging up the people who were going to hand out the awards rather than looking at the ‘creative’ talent who were in the room, much to my irritation.

    Soembody who I won’t name but who has already comemnted above, asked me when I met them for the first time some 6-8 months after the awards “did you notice how all the winners were the companies who had received funding?” …. I hadn’t even thought about it, but it made sense.

    It cost our company about £4,500 to enter the awards, jumping through all the hoops and fulfilling their ‘entering needs’.

    So, after this long rant, are we bitter? Yes, a touch in honesty. Do we really care about the City Council’s opinion? No, as it became very clear that they have no idea what real creativity is.

    We have worked with some really great people at the council who have been excellent client. It’s jsut extremely dissapointing that as an organisation they are pretty poor, and make life so much harder and less enjoyable than it should be. For us, as an organisation, they have been nothing more than a hindrance to our business.

    Now, I’m off to congratulate LHM Media on their win – I know them very well.

  22. I and colleagues came up with ‘BAB’ The Birmingham Arts Ball in 2002.
    Simple idea, lots of categories, online public voting resulting in a short awards ceremony followed by a ball.
    The idea was nicked and messed up wholesale but I’d still like an arts/creative awards affair with public voting, an awards ceremony that focused on the winners and a….ball.

  23. I have read through all the posts on here and can see both sides, there does seem to be a gap in the market for the recognition of design and creativity for ‘designers’ and the excellent work they do in the Midlands.

    That being said, these awards from Birmingham City Council exist for businesses, and nearly all awards in the creative sector are created for companies to nominate themselves.

    In the current climate, for businesses to compete with London agencies, and to build strong teams that consistently put out excellent work should be recognised even more so.

    The creative sector contributes 9% to the Midlands economy and many designers learn their trade working for and with businesses in this sector.

    Birmingham City Council have provided much support to this sector and people have benefitied and grown their business using this support, myself included.

    The awards this year were a smooth operation, and will no doubt help show companies who are providing work to companies outside the region, exactly what Birmingham has to offer.

  24. Thanks for your thoughts, Ian. Genuine congrats on the award too – I hadn’t come across your company before but I see you’ve done some impressive work.

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