The Society of British Theatre Designers

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Staging Places: We Are The Storytellers Now - open until March 13, 2020 at V&A London

Blue Pages Editorial Issue 2 2013:

Creative activism: the view from the north
In 2006, we published an article in Blue Pages about a student study trip to Iceland. The visit which included meeting the directors and designers, curators and artists at the National Theatre and National gallery and Reykjavík Art Museum, gave no indication of the looming economic meltdown. However, in that same year Andri Snaer Magnason published his book Dreamland – a Self Help Manual for a Frightened Nation which exposed the Icelandic government plans to attract overseas aluminium smelting companies by allowing them to build on Icelandic rivers. Magnason proposed a sustainable alternative economy based on stimulating small creative businesses. It turned out to be prophetic as Iceland’s economy subsequently went into free fall only to be rescued through the creative economy. By 2009, the turnover from the cultural and creative industries was higher than that of agriculture and almost matched that of fisheries and continues to fuel the recovery.
Last November, Reykjavik hosted You Are In Control, a cross-platform brainstorming event that combined, lectures and discussion panels with music, workshops and food. With the theme Creatives Into The Future, the invitation extended to all areas of the creative industries, ranging from digital, literature, performance, design, music, film, games and business. YAIC 2012 took place in Harpa the new green arts centre and performance space, designed by Henning Larsen Architects and the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The concert hall had only been half built when the economy collapsed but in 2008 the government took the calculated risk to fund its completion and operation. Among the speakers at YAIC was Magnason who spoke about how the creative scene became politicised around the time of the crash. For many Icelandic artists it was ‘necessary to step out of art and into activism’. Their actions are producing new initiatives that will safeguard the environment while…

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