Reignite: Portsmouth welcomed creatives and project organisers as they met with representatives from cultural and historical organisations as well as funding bodies and the city council.
Hosted by Ben Clabon, associate producer of The Guildhall Trust, the event hosted talks, panels, and networking sessions to encourage conversations and collaborations to make plans for the city’s cultural and creative development.
Members of these communities discussed ways to help each other thrive in the future as industries emerge from enforced Covid shutdowns and the impact of the pandemic.
Cllr Ben Dowling, cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development, said that while the sectors have ‘been through a number of challenges’, events like Reignite will ‘be able to drive this sort of change’ and help creatives develop their businesses.
He said: ‘Culture is about collaboration, it’s about demonstrating how we think, what we want. It’s about expression.’
Ben said that he wants to see ‘culture at the forefront’ as Portsmouth has ‘an immense challenge ahead of us to drive the city forward’.
He added: ‘I care deeply about the culture of our city and the future of our city.
‘Portsmouth is such a good place for culture at the moment, I think we could have a cultural renaissance.’
‘Elevator pitches’ were heard from the Making Waves film festival, Stowaway Festival for children and families, environmental writing project Pens of the Earth, Fratton Big Local, and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, as well as others.
One panel considered the question ‘Can we better support communities through culture and creative practice?’.
Teams from The Kings Theatre and New Theatre Royal, as well as creatives from The Makers’ Guild – shared making facilities inside Portsmouth Guildhall – were in attendance.
Speaker Stef Nienaltowski is CEO of Shaping Portsmouth, a not-for-profit company which aims to deliver change to the city by bringing business, education and the community together.
He said that he wants to showcase ‘the value, the brilliance, and the sheer width’ of the city’s cultural and creative industries.
Stef added: ‘Our vision is to transform Portsmouth together.’
Portsmouth and Gosport have been identified as one of 54 key sites nationally as part of Arts Council England’s ambitious three-year ‘Let’s Create’ plan to boost cultural offerings in ‘underserved areas’.
By 2030, the council wants England to be a country in which the creativity of every person is valued and given the chance to flourish.
The Let’s Create strategy will see Arts Council England forging deeper ties with organisations across Portsmouth and Gosport to develop ‘new opportunities for increased investment in culture’.
The vision is part of a major campaign to help the arts industry and local communities in their fight to recover following the coronavirus pandemic.
At Reignite, a representative from Arts Council England said: ‘We want to support creative people with a focus on creating opportunities opportunities for children and young people
‘We are prioritising working with them with investment and engagement.’
Pippa Bostock is director of arts body Portsmouth Creates, the volunteer-led arts group which organised and hosted light festival We Shine last November.
More than 80,000 visits were made to light and art installations across the city, including ‘The Ship Of The Gods’, a 3D projection of a giant ship in St Mary’s Church, Fratton, and ‘The Rainbow In The Dark’, a nighttime rainbow created using mist sprays in Victoria Park.
She said: ‘We exist to be a catalyst and collaborations are at the centre of everything we do. ‘We want to take it forward, we want We Shine to be the city’s light festival.’
Pippa is also business director for the University of Portsmouth’s upcoming Centre for Creative and Immersive XR (CCIXR), set to open later this year.
The XR enterprise (eXRe) project will focus on enabling the use of immersive technologies within heritage and visitor attractions, and is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.
Working with a number of local attractions, the eXRe project aims to enable Portsmouth’s economy to fully benefit from cutting edge facilities the centre offers, aiding the city’s cultural led regeneration and community development.
CCIXR’s new programme, Pippa said, was an opportunity ‘for the city and the region’ in terms of supporting creative and cultural industries.
The event was sponsored by Portsmouth City Council and was supported by The Guildhall Trust, Portsmouth Creates, and Shaping Portsmouth.