How can a building make you smile?Reimagining and redeveloping The Courts Imagine a place where a young person’s background, race, beliefs, gender, physical ability and economic status had nothing to do with how good they could be, what they could achieve. A space where they could fully explore their creative potential, receive support and mentoring, and find meaningful work. That place is the Old Bristol Magistrates Courts (The Courts). An enterprise centre to help young people set up their own creative businesses and develop their opportunities. A place where there are no barriers to their future, where the only things that count are their abilities and talents. Thanks to the The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol City Council we are developing detailed business and architectural plans to reimagine and redevelop this historic city landmark as a place that will complement Bristol’s renowned and growing creative industries sector. To get involved and keep up to date with our progress, sign up to our newsletter. The Problem with Creativity The Creative Surplus UK creative industries are a true success story. They are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, while employment in the sector grows at four times the rate of the national workforce. Creative industries form a key sector of UK industry, generating around £92 billion per annum and contributing more than 5% of the UK economy (DCMS, 2017). Taken as a whole, the creative industries employ about 15,900 people in the Bristol and Bath area. The region’s creatives are estimated to be 50% more productive than the UK average and productivity in creative businesses across Bristol and Bath has increased by 106% since 1999. The Creative Deficit All those positive statistics mask stark reminders about how inequality and other disadvantages are stopping many very able young people from entering the creative industries. White people hold 88% of the jobs and only 11% are occupied by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people. Men dominate the sector holding 63% of the jobs. In the gaming industry, a creative field in which the UK excels, 86% of jobs are held by men, 96% by white people. It is also significantly difficult if a young person comes from state education. Since 2010, there has been a 28% drop in the number of students taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers. Our Solution The Courts will throw open the doors to creativity through an open, enabling and supportive environment for those talented but disadvantaged or marginalised young people seeking to enter the creative industries. Floor by floor plan Basement It is envisaged the basement level (the old cell block) will contain incubator space and enterprise workshops for young people. Our plan is to let this space on a short-term and quick-release basis for people looking to develop a business, or starting out as a young professional. Ground floor The ground floor currently has four courtrooms, one of which will be restored to its original condition and offered as a film, television and performance location. The remaining rooms will be developed into lettable spaces for multipurpose use. These will include space for Creative Youth Network services, for creative industries, youth participation work, performance, gallery exhibition and a bar/café.A public entry will ensure everyone, regardless of their physical ability, can use the same entrance. First, second & third floors The first, second and third floors will provide 1,115m² of high-quality office space let commercially and accommodating around 110 workers. These tenant organisations will share our organisational values and ethos for the building.A new lift will connect all four floors, again ensuring full access, while the old staircase will be retained as a heritage feature. We are also considering a green-roof across some of the open spaces covering the rooftop to complement the high-spec insulation, heating and cooling, and energy conservation measures planned to ensure The Courts has the lowest possible environmental impact. About us Blog The value of diversity of thought I’ve been saturated with politics recently. I’ve seen two of the ‘big beasts’ of recent political history speak – Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown, along with some truly fascinating presentations from comedian economists and futurists! I love having my world view challenged; learning about the big themes of history and having the chance to look at the horizon to see what might be coming. Of course much of this is ‘deep thought’ – it helps not one bit in the day to day struggle to grow and run a charity for young people. Learning about how driverless cars will need ethics or how blockchain could mean we no longer need companies (or charities for that matter) in order to organise ourselves are radical thoughts but they don’t help with the young person needing a home or the next funding bid. But the thoughts will sit deeply in my head and help inform the decisions I make. And amidst these swirling thoughts a few things are crystallising and taking shape in my mind. The first is not new but is worth highlighting I think. That is the fragmentation of our national and international conversation. Social media, traditional media and the splintering of our conversations into a thousand different bubbles is serving only to exacerbate our differences. We’ve all seen fake news and spurious claims about the future shape the direction of our countries in the last few years. But this is only the extension of the ‘group think’ that David McWilliams, the comedian economist described in the speech I watched a few weeks ago. He described confident children that fit into our education system are successful; they are told they are great which means they carry on thriving; they then go to the same ‘top’ universities where they learn the same things about how the economy works then go on to get jobs in the same firms where huge bonuses confirm their ‘masters of the universe’ status and the hubris becomes unstoppable. This narrow world view creates buildings and companies that Grayson Perry describes in his exhibition in the Arnolfini as creating nothing more than glorified ‘bachelor pads’. This group think means credit default swaps seem like reasonable trades and so the bubble grows. Until it hits reality! But unfortunately when the bubble bursts the same people decide on the solutions to their own problems. The result has kept many people in the country poor. And let’s not fool ourselves that this ‘group think’ is an exclusive preserve of the right or capitalism. Union group think brought the country to its knees in the 70s. Group think brought Kids Company to collapse only a couple of years ago. Nick Clegg talked about how social media has accelerated this process dramatically - reinforcing the bubble and making disrespect for the ‘other’ acceptable in a way it wasn’t a few years ago. This gives us less time to spot the problems before they happen and a narrower range of views to provide solutions. So what are the solutions to these problems that seem to be on an unstoppable march riding on the back of technological ‘progress’. Gordon Brown talked eloquently about the the need not only for technical solutions (fiscal stimulus and the like) but also the need for ethics. As a nation we don’t talk about ethics or morality much any more. For me, true ethics are not about your political beliefs, but how you treat others (especially when they are not looking). It means respecting others even if you fundamentally disagree with them. It means a tolerance for different world views and experience. It means standing up for what you believe in even if it means going against the crowd. This might be, as Nick Clegg talked about, MPs saying what they really think. He estimated 90% of MPs think Brexit is a bad idea but are afraid to be seen to stand up for what they think. It might be bankers agreeing that complex and ultimately useless financial instruments that simply make money should not be traded but instead trade in ‘useful’ loans that help business to grow, create jobs and move our societies forward. I would add to this need for ethics an argument for diversity. Diversity is the antithesis of group think. Having people from different backgrounds creating new ideas and challenging old ones is a recipe for more creative thinking and avoiding the cul de sacs of thought that lead us as individuals, companies and countries into dangerous waters. We have a great tradition in the UK for fairness, tolerance and embracing the unusual but I fear we are beginning to forget that. I want to see our leaders remind us what great qualities they are and how Britain thrived on them and can create a great future based on them again.