They say, be careful what you wish for. It was Schumpeter who famously made the connection between disruption and innovation. But for we innovators, is this really the disruption we wanted? Perhaps not. But disruption, like innovation, rarely comes to order.
As we peer into the darkness trying to anticipate our uncertain future, there is time to reflect. How did we get here? What lies ahead?
From the perspective of London, both questions are immense – existential even. The Brexit messages, now echoed from across the Atlantic, challenge many of the city’s cherished principles – open; diverse; tolerant. The divisions in our midst – young/old, North/South, urban/rural – as well as the dangers of our own bubbles and silos have been laid bare. Why is the UK capital, so out of kilter with much of the country – England and Wales at least?
Within London, the city’s paradoxes also become more exposed. The chasm between the have and have nots. Some 27% of Londoners live in poverty, whilst 700,000 are employed in jobs that pay below the capitals’ living wage. The blind eye turned to murky overseas investment and exploited migrant workers trafficked through porous borders. Everyone sleeps a little less comfortably now.
Now is the time for difficult conversations. For three years now, SIX has curated the Unusual Suspects Festival for that very purpose. Starting in London, then on the road in Glasgow and Northern Ireland, the Festival has provided a forum for candid discussion, new ideas and inspiration. It is a space where old connections and re-engineered and new ones framed. Most of all, it is a place to think the unthinkable and to explore what comes from sparking new chance connections.
There is a sense within the city of powerlessness, that arguably unites all Londoners, and the festival is an opportunity to debate, question and ultimately change systems and dynamics of power within the capital.
The festival will take advantage of some of the most positive qualities of London in order to address some of the pressing challenges we face. Over 300 languages are spoken on a daily basis and the city is home to not only 43 universities, but also 240 museums and galleries that are open to all. These traits of multiculturalism and culture are ones that are not only powerful, but also have the ability to positively transform the lived experience of Londoners.
So, on the anniversary of the Brexit vote- June 2017 – what better time and place to bring the Festival back to London. We do hope that you’ll be joining us there.