Back then they employed 8 lenses to look at how we might recognise the value of culture, arts and leisure in our economy and also in our own individual creativity and our community-based arts activities. The eight lenses were creative industries, support for the individual artist, universal accessibility, infrastructure, cultural diversity, the DCAL strategy, international dimension, creativity in education.
I can remember at the time struggling with some of the conceptual analysis that was contained in Unlocking Creativity but it was the only show in town and it was as comprehensive an understanding of how the arts might operate in post Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland as there was. That Unlocking Creativity Strategy brought together a lot of different departments and areas of activity: The Department for culture arts and leisure, the Department for education, the Department of enterprise, trade and investment, the Department of higher and further education, training and employment. Back then it was recognised that it was vital that the importance of creative and cultural education be seen as integral and central to the curriculum but also to the longer term impact on the Northern Irish economy. It was further recognised that creativity is a function of human intelligence and becomes evident only in the active process of doing something. It is not a separate faculty of the mind that some people have and others don't.
I happened to be a member of the ministerial arts advisory forum that the minister called together to support this strategy. In our dialogues and discussions since December last year we developed a conversation of ambition, of depth, of vision for the future for Northern Ireland. I wrote at the time, a section called today and tomorrow. I started by offering a sense of where we are now:
We sit at the western edge of Europe but from these shores has flowed centuries of culture artistry and artists across oceans and continents, across the world. Over 1.8 million people live here and our increasingly diverse lives and communities are reflected in a vibrant, varied and vital creative sector, employing some 40,000 people, 5,500 of those within the arts sector alone and generating huge impacts across our economy and our society.
But what does our creative future look like in 2026?
The years to 2026 will witness exponential technological growth for a truly global conversation engaging all facets of life, digitally. It is thought by January 2026 that the European population will still be much the same but there will be 1 billion more people who inhabit the earth. Here the promise of peace and prosperity will see our population rise.