An evening of experiment and charming anarchy

Guinness Creative Summit full event audio The Guinness Creative Summit panel (audio)
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Instinct, morality, curiosity and even the neurons in a cat’s brain – such were the theories put forward to explain what it means to be creatively brave by the disparate panel of fascinating experts at the Guinness Creative Summit in London on March 15, writes Lisa Luxx.

We tell ourselves that those ordinary people who go on to achieve extraordinary things must display a special courage in pushing the boundaries to leave their unique mark on the world. But one unexpected question soon came up: is there even such a thing as creative bravery?

Guinness and The Telegraph brought together five of Britain’s most innovative creative pioneers – Helen Storey MBE, the award-winning artist and designer, Walter Hugo, the visual artist and photographic sculptor of the duo Walter and Zoniel, Tania Harrison, arts curator of Latitude Festival, musician and sound artist Leafcutter John and Sam Bompas, of food architects Bompas & Parr – to share their expertise.

Hosting with aplomb this highly opinionated (and at times charmingly anarchic) panel was the Telegraph art critic and BBC broadcaster Alastair Sooke.

The live discussion explored the journey of our forward-thinking guests and their groundbreaking work. Thinking outside the box was the key, and Helen Storey’s answer to the first question of the night epitomised that: “My creative hero isn’t a human but a human capacity: intuition, and that’s present in all of us”, she said.

The subject of Guinness’s brilliant TV ad, John Hammond, the New York record producer who, during a time of segregation in the 1930s, brought together black and white musicians to create not just great jazz but a musical legacy, would doubtless agree.

Intuition became the thread for the evening; Sam told us that our stomachs have more neurons than a cat’s brain “so trust your gut instinct”, and Tania spoke of how her natural reaction to social injustices inspire the themes for her major-scale work.

Walter Hugo explains his jellyfish tank installation in Liverpool Credit: Stuart Hendry

Working with a moral purpose was another major driver for these creative minds to produce their most extraordinary work. Walter explained the art project called The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, whereby Zoniel and himself built an installation of live jellyfish in the most deprived neighbourhood in England and watched it bring together a community who took ownership of this spectacle they had been gifted.

Innate curiosity and fascination became a key theme, too. Leafcutter John talked about working all the time because “I just do stuff I’m fascinated by so it doesn’t feel like work”. He explained how much of his experiments are just that: experiments – the manifestation of a boyhood curiosity instilled in him by his grandfather’s encouragement.

Helen told us that her first non-commercial fashion project, Primitive Streak, which she created with her biologist sister, established a new language by merging fashion and science.

“Before we are taught to look at fashion and art separately, we are curious about all things,” Helen explained. And the discussion went on to explore what the line is between science and art. Leafcutter John proposed that, “as an artist you choose whether to draw those lines”.

The prevalent conclusion was that most of the panel were rarely thinking about the end product or any type of commercial gain or recognition when they set out to create works that are now iconic. “It’s just an extension of what we all think”, said Tania.

The thought-provoking discussion wrapped up on the theme of creative bravery. Walter paraphrased Zoniel’s father when he said: “Having a thought is one thing, making it happen is worlds apart.”

You can listen to the debate yourself as it will be uploaded here soon in a series of podcasts covering key topics of the evening: the power to inspire, experiment, collaborate and provoke. It may give you the insights you need to find your own inner innovator.

Morals, gut instinct, an obsession with achieving what these creative pioneers set out to do – John Hammond would be proud.