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Guest blog: I Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But It Wasn’t A Fish

I’m writing my blog this week sitting in a hotel room in Berlin. It’s my first visit to the city although some years ago I wrote an interpretation plan for an attraction here that introduced visitors to Berlin’s story. My qualification apparently was that I provided an external perspective.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, place and perspective have a major impact on what we do and how much we enjoy it. As I sat down to write this, however, I did wonder if this is changing with our reliance on technology. I sit here in Berlin and will talk about a rural initiative in Nottinghamshire. My last blog has opened up discussions for us in Canada, Greece, Australia, and London. Are conversations becoming as much about screens as about places?

I read recently that someone has calculated that the ten years we have gained in life expectancy since the 1950s will all be spent in front of a screen. We would all surely deny that home is where the screen is but how much do we really think of the opportunities that this flexibility presents? We hear it often on a micro-level – home not office – but we’re still a pretty conservative bunch when it comes to organisational movement.

Let’s be clear. This matters to me now because I want to persuade creative people to join us in our adventure at Welbeck but when I worked in advertising in London, I couldn’t imagine moving out of Soho. I could trot out a lengthy list of reasons to continue paying our inflated rents – inspirational pace of the city, galleries and theatres close at hand, inexhaustible supply of creative talent, great restaurants etc. Of course all we ever complained about was travel, noise and expense; we never went to the theatre or galleries; we continued to look outside London for hiring; and lunch was a sandwich from Pret A Manger. Let’s face it, we’d become comfortable. And for an industry lionised for its creativity, a lot scared of change.

 The really sad thing about this is the enormous potential for change that may be going to waste. The importance of the creative economy to UK PLC is at last well understood and its growing priority in the national agenda provides a major reason why we must not allow it to be restricted to urban environments. But it must not relax into becoming another service industry, providing skills and expertise to the rest of the world. Creativity and innovation have the power to change the world – and that means thinking differently.

This is about more than screens. Where we are does affect how we think. The BBC will be different in Manchester than in London. It’s not just the light that helps an artist decide where to set up studio. A Nottingham designer will add something to a London brief. The difference is perspective – how the world looks. My argument is a simple one. If your world looks different to the mainstream, you have more chance of changing everyone’s world. You’re starting from a better place.

This my last blog so you’ll excuse me taking a few moments of your time to argue that Welbeck might just be one of those better places. A friend recently told me, “I can appreciate that Welbeck would be miles better for me on quality of life grounds but there’s more to life than that.” We paused a moment and laughed.

We take so much of our lives for granted and that’s very true when it comes to work. As the Marshall McLuhan thought at the start of the blog suggests, we’re all swimming hard without stopping to think of what surrounds us.

At Welbeck, you’d be surrounded by hundreds of acres of natural countryside; by historic architecture; by peace and quiet; and by generations of creative endeavour. The scale of all this is what adds magic and I want to close my fortnight with you by inviting you to visit.

There’s already a lot to see and enjoy.  The Harley Gallery  can satisfy the artist or designer in you; the Welbeck Farm Shop, the lover of fine food; and the School of Artisan Food can train you. There may even be an office waiting at Carriage Court that would suit you well.

For now, as I sit in Berlin, it strikes me that he places you do business are no longer driven by the place you do what you do.

These blogs, our website and even our Twitter ramblings have put us in touch with people all over the world. This doesn’t mean place is no longer important. Instead it just makes it all the more crucial that the place you work in enables your ideas to be extraordinary. In fact in a business world where you could be anywhere, the choices you make about where you base yourself become all the more important.

That’s not to say that the future companies of the Welbeck Project won’t be jetting off the California, or Berlin like me. But it is to say that when they get there they’ll need a story to tell.


A big thank you to Scott for sharing his thoughts with us as guest blogger (all the way from Berlin this week)! Read more about Scott Sherrard here.

Are you interested in guest blogging for Creative Nottingham?