Lessons from 2020: How the creative industries can move forward

Has the year 2020 taught us anything, in between all the disease and political upheaval? The Phoenix Summit asked some of New Zealand’s top creatives how their industries are changing.

At the beginning of the year a new decade full of festivals, audiences and showcases was promised. By March, many people were writing off 2020 and looking to ride out Covid-19 as best they could.

Although most impacts of the virus have been objectively bad – over a million deaths, a global recession, closed borders, political turmoil that only exacerbates the pandemic’s effects – it’s been an opportunity for creatives to pause and assess the damage to their industries. For some, 2020 has only brought to light damage that already existed.

This year has been a lesson in how we respond to crisis – as individuals, as businesses and as countries. It’s also been an opportunity to develop new ways of empowering creativity. The first Phoenix Summit for creatives was held last year, and started a movement to connect and inspire New Zealand creatives. This year’s will bring together the community again, this time with the goal of visualising a future we can feel optimistic about again.

The Spinoff reached out to some of our country’s most brilliant creatives – all of whom are speaking at this year’s summit – and asked them to look back and reflect on how this year has changed their approach.

Georgia Robertson

The biggest lesson I have learnt this year is that we all have boundless ability to express our creativity. I feel often, if we’ve pursued a pathway not typically categorised as a creative discipline, so many of us write ourselves off as “not that creative”, but this year has provided countless lessons demanding we respond creatively to crisis across all fields.

For me that looks like being a storyteller about how Humanitix as a ticketing platform is changing the world by addressing educational inequality. It also looks like being able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, investing time and genuine curiosity to understand the world of our event organisers. This empowers us to build game-changing tech that is not only disrupting the status quo but responding swiftly to changing needs in the events industry. One example is building our virtual events hub, a creative idea serving the needs of events going digital.

So don’t box yourself out from getting out there and doing amazing things! Play to your strengths, listen carefully and be fuelled by the knowledge that amid the chaos and uncertainty, there are limitless opportunities to harness your creativity for good in the world, no matter what you’re passionate about.

Georgia Robertson is CEO at Humanitix

When Bauer ended its New Zealand operations earlier this year, many magazine creatives were put out of work

Sido Kitchin

I guess I’ve never thought I was that creative. I believed leading groups of people was my thing, and I’d surround myself with creative people – photographers, stylists, designers, makeup artists, writers – to make great magazines.

My world crashed when my workplace closed down and I lost my job during lockdown. I watched former colleagues dig in and get creative – books, websites, blogs, entire new careers – but I was inert. I tried to write, but I couldn’t find the words. I was overlooked for jobs I could do, and I lost my confidence. After 30 years, I thought it was time to say goodbye to my beloved career in journalism. And at my stage of life, that was pretty frightening.

But it turns out it took my entire world to turn upside down to embark on the most creative thing I’ve ever done: launching a new publishing venture and four magazines from scratch. It was as if my entire life had built up to this moment. This is what I was meant to do all along. To do my own thing.

Being handed the opportunity, freedom and independence to make the magazines that I would truly like to make – to tell the stories that I think matter most and will be appreciated by New Zealand women today – has been the most incredible gift. It’s definitely unleashed creativity I never gave myself credit for. It’s taught me to be brave, to have confidence in my experience and to listen to my gut. I know now that I’ve been given this chance because I’ve earned it and I know what I’m doing. And being able to give so many other wonderful women on my team the chance to unleash their creativity making these beautiful and meaningful magazines is the best feeling of all.

Sido Kitchin is group publisher at School Road Publishing

Robert Knight and Maryanne Bilham

The two main lessons we have learnt from 2020 is to be adaptable and always have hope. We are thrilled to be 100% back living in New Zealand and are both looking forward to offering our shared decades of knowledge and wisdom, having worked for a very long time in the international music business.

We have a wonderful programme called the Brotherhood of the Guitar and mentor over 100 young musicians from around the world, many of whom are in New Zealand. We believe New Zealand is the future – it’s one of the first places on the planet to be back open for touring and live shows. While the major A-list bands may have trouble for some time in coming to New Zealand, there has never been a better time for young up-and-coming artists that can adapt and be flexible to shine brightly.

Robert Knight and Maryanne Bilham are celebrity photographers and owners of the Anthology Lounge

Teremoana Rapley

In the music industry, I see broken systems everywhere. It is only when we are forced by a global pandemic that the industry that “manages” the infrastructure has begun to highlight poignant facts: we don’t openly acknowledge the fact that the current ecosystem only supports a handful of artists, and the industry uses these five to 10 artists to sell both a local and international picture of “success” both here and overseas.

But is that really success? A system that has continued to operate in a purposeful reductionist manner that has millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money poured into it every year with minimal understanding of uplifting the entire sector for sustainable, long-term-focused outcomes.

Now, what are we going to do with few to no overseas artists hitting our shores? Here is an idea: focus on the local industry, really look at what is needed, prototype, test, reiterate, do it better, don’t get complacent – stay on your toes.

Teremoana Rapley is a creative economy senior adviser at ATEED

Teeks and Hollie Smith performing at the Auckland Town Hall. Going forward, we could have a greater focus on empowering local musicians (Photo: Adrian Malloch)

Hamish Pinkham

Stop. Pause. Go.

It’s important to take time to stop and assess your situation before you continue on your creative journey and 2020 has certainly taught me this. Often we find ourselves tired, uninspired and busy being busy. First break from the path you are on to stop and take stock. Look around you and what you are trying to achieve. Pause to look at your habits, your team and the reason you are committing to your journey. Take time to assess your situation and your goals.

Then, once recharged and refocused, take off again with new energies, new insights and new inspiration.

I found this lesson useful in the half marathon I did on the weekend. I was floundering halfway through the race, tired and uninspired to continue. I managed to have a quick water stop and paused for a minute or two to regain my composure. When I took off again, I had a new lease on life – more energy, increased motivation and a faster pace. My output was markedly better after applying “Stop. Pause. Go.”

2020 has been a huge reset for many people. I’m hoping to implement more of this lesson in my life; learning to stop, and appreciating the pause before continuing to achieve my creative goals to the highest standards.

Hamish Pinkham is the founder of Phoenix Summit

Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

I’ve never been able to or had the attention span to just sit down and work on material or just write something. It either comes to me or it doesn’t, plus I’m pretty lazy. During lockdown I had no choice but to sit down and try to work on stuff and it actually worked out pretty well. So I guess the main lesson I learned is that once I stop being a lazy piece of shit, I can actually get things done.

Cori Gonzalez-Macuer is an actor, comedian and mental health advocate

The second Phoenix Summit has been postponed due to the most recent community transition case of Covid-19 in the Auckland CBD. See a note from the promoter below:

13 Nov 2020: The Phoenix Summit is all about the community it gathers; bringing together Aotearoa’s creative community for a day of conversations and connection around our shared passion.

Due to the recent community transmission of COVID-19 and the government direction for people to avoid the Auckland CBD, where we intend to hold the Phoenix Summit tomorrow. We have decided that we will and shall always put our community first, therefore we are postponing The Phoenix Summit 002. We had an incredible day lined up for you, and we promise to bring you the Phoenix Summit 002 continued bigger and brighter than ever. We will keep you updated with the next steps in the coming days, as things unfold.

Thank you to all of our speakers, sponsors, pass holders and supporters who have made the Phoenix Summit rise!
We are with you. We are you. We will rise.




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