For the past ten years, Blick Shared Studios in Belfast has been providing a supportive workspace for local creatives, building up a community of entrepreneurs along the way. With an office space now also in Derry-Londonderry, the team is always looking at ways to branch out within the creative community and also – beyond it.
For this year’s Creativity Month, which takes place in March, Blick Shared Studios is therefore hosting a range of events in both their Belfast and Derry-Londonderry bases. The idea, says managing director, Christine James, is to promote and celebrate the creative industries and to highlight just what it is they do to the wider public.
'This is the first year we’ve planned so many events for the month,' she says. 'A lot of them are design events, which comes off the back of Belfast Design Week. Part of that is about promoting designers to the public – the value of designers and the industry here.'
Held in November, Belfast Design Week was launched in 2015 and Blick Shared Studios aims to build on where it left off in 2016, with more design-inspired events for Creativity Month. These include everything from a Graduate Creative Enterprise Bootcamp, to an open house evening called Late Night Design, and a series of Womenfolk events.
'The Bootcamp was probably the toughest one,' says James. 'There was an application process for that and it’s just for students or those who graduated up to two years ago. We were doing that because we get a lot of feedback that students don’t feel they get enough support when they’re studying, so when they graduate, they’re not sure where to go, work-wise.'
The Graduate Creative Enterprise Bootcamp was a two-day masterclass which will subsequently help graduates get their creative business ideas off the ground.
Kicking off the Blick Shared Studios Creativity Month events however, was the Late Night Design evening, which saw various Belfast designers open up their doors to the public. This gave people a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes on within these businesses, and show the diverse range of work taking place in the city.
'Late Night Design was all about showing people what’s happening behind closed doors,' says James. 'When people think about design they often just think about graphic design … they don’t realise the depth of the design industry and the value of it.'
'This was a chance for us to get the message about design out there a bit more. Creativity Month helped us to showcase that. We’re quite a big network but a lot of that is made up of people within the creative industries.'
'Creativity Month allows us to do a bit more stuff down in Derry as well. We’ve been there for about a year-and-a-half now but no-one really knows we’re there.'
As well as championing local designers, Blick Shared Studios is keen to use Creativity Month to encourage and support female digital and creative entrepreneurs. Three Womenfolk events will therefore celebrate women in design, with events in both Belfast and Derry-Londonderry. These include the Failures Exhibition, which aims to banish the fear of starting something new, along with a zine-making workshop and a special talk and forum to celebrate women in design.
'Womenfolk is coming from a need that we see,' says James. 'We have a high proportion of women who come to our events but very few have work spaces with us. We have just two in Derry. We thought it would be good to find a way to promote and highlight what’s going on out there, to hopefully inspire and encourage more people to get involved in the creative industries. The women’s event is something we’ve talked about for a long time.'
One Blick Shared Studios event is still to come this month and will take place in Belfast at the end of the month, entitled The Burning Question – The Question of Design. Taking the form of a chat-show, this event will see local comedian Graeme Watson interview design entrepreneurs about their work – and the frustrations that can come with it. It will also be a chance for designers to network with one another.
'Our events are all about celebrating and showcasing what’s happening in the design community in Northern Ireland,' says James. 'Some of these are new projects for us which will hopefully become longer-term projects.'
'Creativity Month is a chance to make these bigger and more structured and to get feedback from participants so we can look at the impact of what we’re doing.'
For more information on the events from Blick Shared Studios for Creativity Month, click here.