Launch of the Masters in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship
Long Room Hub, Trinity College
18 September 2013
Thank you, Marie,
And welcome everybody to Trinity College.
What a wonderful way to start the academic year – launching a new Masters in Freshers week – a new Masters in this pivotal growth area for the Irish economy - and doing so with a partner, Goldsmiths, University of London, which is recognised the world over as a leader in creative entrepreneurship.
Some of the most exciting recent college initiatives have been about driving the creative and cultural entrepreneurship agenda. I don’t have time to go into all of them – there are simply too many – but here are my top seven since I took over as Provost in 2011:
- Launching the Lir Academy of Dramatic Art;
- Opening Trinity’s Music Composition Centre;
- Launching the ‘Trinity leg’ of the radical art exhibition, Dublin Contemporary;
- Launching a Book of Kells iPad app;
- Celebrating the graduation of our first PhD students from the Innovation Academy;
- Launching the College’s nineteen key interdisciplinary research themes, which include:
- ‘Digital Arts and Humanities’,
- ‘Creative Technologies’ and
- ‘Creative Arts Practice’;
- And celebrating five years of the Science Gallery – ‘a place where art and science collide’, as we say, - and we now look forward to the imminent opening of a Science Gallery in King’s College London;
That list will give you some idea of the kind of creative entrepreneurship and innovation we’ve been encouraging in Trinity. Cumulatively our activities amount to a whole new 21st century focus on creative innovation - of which this Masters is the latest instance – and a most important one.
So I want to take this opportunity to reflect a bit on this new focus. Why are we doing it? What do we hope will come of it?
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Of course there has always been creativity, culture, and entrepreneurship in universities – at least in universities like Trinity and Goldsmiths.
As an example: 19th century Ireland had two popular, influential, if quite different magazines: the Dublin University Magazine, which was Unionist and high-brow, and The Nation, which was nationalist and populist. Both featured the best writers of the day and had huge cultural and political impact. Both were co-founded by Trinity students – the Dublin University Magazine by Isaac Butt, and the Nation by Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon - just after they left Trinity, but they formulated their ideas for such a paper during debates in the College’s Historical Society.
This was certainly successful creative entrepreneurship, incubated in Trinity. But it was extracurricular activity – it wasn’t designed for in the academic programme, and you could say it was the inevitable result of bringing radical young minds together.
Not just students, but also Trinity staff were engaged in creative innovation. I think of George Dawson, our erstwhile Professor of Genetics, whose passion for contemporary art led to Trinity being the first Irish university to open an art gallery – initially a temporary exhibition hall, then housed from 1977 in our Douglas Hyde Gallery.
But Dawson’s passion was - like Isaac Butt’s and Thomas Davis’ – outside hours. In those days creative entrepreneurship was a thing that flourished on the margins of university life: something which had little to do with the serious business of scholarship.
To paraphrase Yeats, universities were “monuments of unageing intellect” and not to be “caught in that sensual music” that goes on in the world outside them.
This was the situation when I arrived here as a student in 1983. There was no Samuel Beckett Theatre and no Lir Academy for Dramatic Art. There was no Music Composition Centre. The School of English had wonderful staff writers, including poets Brendan Kennelly and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin – but it didn’t have a creative writing course.
Similarly there were no awards for student or postgrad entrepreneurship. As students, we were ambitious, certainly, but we weren’t ambitious to be innovators or entrepreneurs, because we had no real idea what these were.
The most profound change in university life since I was an undergraduate is this emphasis on innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and in putting knowledge to work - commercialising it – as part and parcel of the universities core mission in education and research. Put simply, these activities have moved from the extracurricular to the curricular.
Around the world, universities began to realise what could be achieved by harnessing the intellectual and creative energies of staff and students.
This is where universities are today – getting the measure of our potential and finding new ways to unleash it. It is – despite austerity, despite cut-backs – a most exciting time for third-level education.
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When it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, cities and universities must make choices - choices about what fields to concentrate on, and where to put resources. These aren’t easy decisions, by any means. And you can get distracted by the success of others – so you start deciding to imitate Silicon Valley, or other ‘triangles’ or ‘corridors’ of entrepreneurial activity.
But indeed when you begin studying successful innovation, patterns do emerge. What you find is that a region’s innovation almost always derives from its particular strengths and traditions. The high tech revolution didn’t come out of nowhere in Silicon Valley - it came out of the area’s long 20th century focus on electronics and radio transmissions.
What are Dublin and Trinity’s particular traditional strengths? We have quite a few. But high among them, on any reckoning, is cultural and artistic creativity. I won’t go into a roll-call of great Dublin and Trinity writers, actors, musicians, directors. It isn’t necessary. Irish creativity reverberates round the world from Beckett to Riverdance. When looking to develop our strengths we should focus on what is authentically in place.
And we must attract talent to come here - but just as important, if not more so, is Trinity’s role to develop talent and create educational opportunities.
Ireland, Dublin and Trinity are working in synergy on this – opening up various strategic pathways to help increase Ireland’s great flow of creativity. We are now determinedly strategizing, planning, activating, and incentivising - and I know that there are people who disagree, who think that creativity, to preserve its alchemy, must be left alone, like an untended field, to flourish at will.
Well, I don’t agree – because we must strategize for the unexpected! Because creativity managed to flourish here in often unpromising conditions; who designed for Joyce? Or for Luke Kelly - does this mean that we shouldn’t try to improve conditions? We may be blessed with a ‘native genius’ for creativity but when Joyce and Beckett - not to mention unceasing numbers of actors, journalists and broadcasters - have to leave the country in order to realise their genius, is that good enough?
We seek, quite simply, to forge the conditions for creative and cultural entrepreneurship to flourish here, and to be carried by our citizens and graduates beyond this island. The country’s social and economic regeneration depends on this.
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This new Masters in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship will link in to all this. It arrives into an already developed process so that students can hit the ground running. Many people have been involved in devising this Masters but I must thank particularly Professor Marie Redmond, who has worked tirelessly to get this off the ground. We are absolutely indebted to her. I would like to echo Marie’s thanks to our colleagues in Goldsmiths, Pat Loughrey, Gerald Lidstone, Sian Prime and Juliet Sprake and to Peter Kelly, for agreeing to deliver the keynote address along with Moya Doherty who will share her insights into creative entrepreneurship.
We are immensely fortunate in our partner, Goldsmiths, which is adding its burnish and its sheen, its glitter even - if I may be excused the pun - to this endeavour.
Goldsmiths has core, traditional strengths in creativity. Again, I don’t need to go through the roll-call of its graduates and successes because they have achieved global renown, from Lucian Freud to Damian Hirst. And Goldsmiths is a key player in one of the world’s most successful cultural innovation ecosystems - London. When it comes to creative entrepreneurship and drawing down cultural capital, London is the model, for Dublin and for any aspirant city. London has achieved great synergy between its creative players, and great buy-in from its citizens to its cultural programme.
We are honoured to be collaborating with Goldsmiths in the delivery of this Masters. It is immensely exciting to think what our two universities, working in these two great cities, might achieve. The cultural exchange between London and Dublin has been going on for centuries. With this Masters, we are opening a new pathway. We wish our new Masters students all the best. We wish them success and vision, remembering that in the words of Jonathan Swift, a Trinity graduate who divided his life between London and Dublin: “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
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