Digital festival fosters enthusiasm for new age of technology and creativity

emergence festival posterThe Emergence Creative Festival, or Fab Fest, as I affectionately like to call it, was the digital futures extravaganza held in Margaret River, for its second running, in February this year.

The Festival comprises of 3 days of conference speeches, Q & As, masterclass workshops and panel discussions. The term ‘festival’ is apt enough given that the conference section of the event is flanked by an array of vibrant social networking events, that serve up some of the best food, wine, music, arts happenings and vistas, that the Margaret River ‘playground’ has to offer.


Delegates pause for lunch at Vasse Felix

What does Emergence offer?

The festival was set over 6 stunning venues, and staged an international array of keynote speakers. Industry leaders in film-making, TV, music production, branding, communications, marketing and advertising spoke about emerging trends and illuminated the possibilities with their personal stories from the embattled digital frontier.

As a copywriter and consultant specialising in online content branding and marketing, it was an obvious fit for me and my interests. I attended the conference last year and found the keynote speeches and the networking events packed full of inspirational big picture thinking and practical doable advice.

I find this event of particular interest because I live and work in regional WA.

To me, this festival’s prestigious and innovative mix of speakers, focusing on infrastructure, funding, technology and

Sunset music recording at Surfer's Point

Sunset music recording at Surfer’s Point

creativity, set in a regional area, signals a new age of decentralisation just wanting to happen.

Decentralisation of jobs and resources is something I’ve been on the look out for, ever since I began to understand the economic shackles that city living has on the vast majority of people.

When I worked for a dot com, 15 years ago, I travelled daily on a very squashed London tube. ‘When can I move to a tropical island with my laptop?’ was the much posed question, by the creatives on the design floor, and the boardroom executives alike.

The significance of Emergence for everyone in the Great Southern, I believe, is the potential shift of creative/commercial industries, such as publishing, music and film production, away from the expensive epicentres of overcrowded cities, and out into the inspirational, fresh pastures of regional areas. Many of the speakers, from Perth, Sydney, London and LA, said as much themselves.

This has, of course, been made possible by the ’emerging’ and ‘enabling’ technologies; online platforms and tools that allow anywhere/anytime access to communication, collaboration and networking opportunities.

Anita Sykes-Helleher spoke on behalf of the Department of  Culture and the Arts , a key sponsor of the event. Anita is also a Foresight Specialist and consultant working with organisations and communities to ‘create their preferred futures’.

Anita Sykes-Helleher

Creative Design Industries are on the rise

Anita told Emergence delegates that in Australia the creative design industries are on the rise. According to the national bureau of statistics, creative design industry has grown nearly 3.2% a year, consistently over the last 6 years. Furthermore, Anita told us that the Australian creative industries are overtaking education, training, forestry and fishing, in terms of growth.

Anita cited imports and work outsourced off shore as factors threatening other industrial sectors. Anita voiced approval for the relative sustainability and desirability of creative and innovative sectors as a direction of choice for Australia.

‘Sustainability’ was a reoccurring theme at the festival, this year and last, touched on by many of the speakers.


Sustainable growth…

The Great Southern is a region where the predominant industries of logging, farming and tourism have all come under scrutiny, criticism and in some cases strong community opposition because of associated issues with sustainability.

If the creative industries are a golden opportunity for the future, for Australia in general and regional Australia in particular, hoolahoopingthen surely the Great Southern Development Commission, as well as businesses, residents and all other stakeholders in this region, should take note of what visionaries like Mat Lewis, founder of Emergence, are trying to do.

The future may be bright for regional Australia, but the future of Emergence is in the balance. It was announced at the last night dinner that more support funding would be needed if the celebrated festival is to continue next year. With ticket prices already at $650, it is perhaps unlikely that the potential attendees will bare a higher price point. Certainly the cost is prohibitive to most regional business owners, who tend to run a lean outfit in an otherwise not so commercial environment.

bike jumps

Masterclass photo shoot of local, young stunt riders

I personally hope that the festival maintains its local outcomes focus. The design of the festival program incorporates a fair portion of WA, and some South West talent. The festival of course raises the profile of the region and takes care to showcase the environmental and cultural assets of the place.

In my biased opinion, the question as to whether Emergence could go further to deliver tangible outcomes and returns for the host town, shire, region and state, is a fair one, given the sponsorship received.

However, for me personally, although the festival creates havoc with an already busy work schedule, I will be going back next year if I get the chance. The draw card for me is the festival’s over arching enthusiasm and infectious can do attitude about future opportunities, either digitally based or digitally facilitated.

The future of small brands…

Even in Carolyn Miller’s address, which is replete with suggestions why people need to regularly ‘shut off’, and sometimes Carolyn Miller‘say nothing’ online – there is an ever present acceptance that digital is here to stay; “In the future if it can be connected it will be”. Carolyn also displays optimism for the ‘Digital Democracy’ that can potentially give everyone a voice and an audience, and also celebrates the axiom ‘in the future small brands are huge’.

Filled up with Emergence enthusiasm I hope to bring some fresh insights and strategies to Open Copy clients this year, along with some enthusiasm about not only where we might be going, but also why.

Carolyn Miller