Fierce Earth has a new team member. Artist Dean Melbourne is now a Training Co-ordinator part-time having assisted on a number of our courses in the past.
When not at Fierce Earth he is an accomplished painter and last week saw the opening of his first solo show at Bryant Priest Newman architects in the Jewellery Quarter.
I mention it (not just because I’m proud of our talented staff) but because the opening saw a really eclectic mix of people in one room – architects, designers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, consultants, nurses, artists, producers and politicians.
And in a microcosm I had a glimpse of what a “well connected” city could look like. Sometimes it is easy for us all to “network” inside a bubble – especially so if you spend time on certain social media networks – where you hang out exclusively with people who essentially think the same as you.
The gene pools of our networks are strengthened by diversity: knowing people from a wide range of sectors, specialisms, interests, disciplines, politics and faiths opens up our curiosity and tolerance. Listening to opinions that differ from our own and exploring those differences takes maturity and confidence, but is also stimulating and rewarding.
“Technology, talent and tolerance” comprise the holy trinity of attributes the cultural commentator Richard Florida prescribes to build the “Creative City”. Birmingham has, in my experience, bags of talented people. I am looking forward to seeing how the new performing arts school, Birmingham Ormiston Academy encourages young digital and performance talent.
I am not qualified to speak about the state of the technology of the city. Perhaps we need to skill up in that area.
But what we can all do right now is burst out of our habitual bubbles and build resilient and plural networks. It may take a little confidence and courage to step out of the comfort zone: but the rewards on a personal and, ultimately, a civic level could be immense.
* Helga Henry is a consultant with Fierce Earth