Creativity In Crisis

Catherine Johns, Kielder Observatory CEO, recently presented at the Creative Fuse conference in the North East. Here she talks about creativity in crisis and how Kielder Observatory has, and is, weathering the storm. 


Creativity In Crisis

I was asked to share my thoughts on the role of creative practitioners and spaces in a crisis at the Creative Fuse conference and I wanted to highlight three points. 

Firstly, crisis and change are normal. We know this from our observations of the universe - stars are born and die all of the time. The universe is in a permanent state of change. What's important is our response and our resilience and this is where organisations like Kielder Observatory come in. Change and crisis can provide opportunities to learn and experiment and we provide space for that.

The pandemic, for example, taught us that what we do is not just important, it's essential. Looking up at a sky full of stars has been a human birthright for millennia and has inspired our greatest thinkers, artists, scientists and story-tellers. However, in the last few decades this birthright has become unavailable to 80% of the world's population because of light pollution. Dark sky places are therefore essential to our well being. 

Secondly, what is our response? For us, and many like us, the pandemic was almost a crisis of identity. We exist to connect with and inspire people with an experience that is visceral, felt, seen, heard... and shared. If you take that away from us, as the pandemic did, who are we? How could we replicate the physical experience of being at the Observatory? Of course, we couldn't- but what we could do is stay connected in different ways: AR apps, lesson plans, arts programmes, and much more.

Thirdly, what is our role in these seemingly crisis-ridden times? The challenge of climate change is real and soon to be irreversible with devastating consequences for our species and many others. What can we do about this? The answer is what we have always done. Our role is not to be didactic, to tell people what to think, do or feel. 

Our role, and our mission, is to provide space for reflection, connection, hope and inspiration. How we do that changes as new technologies become available to us to reach new audiences, but the mission doesn't. Because without that catalytic moment of inspiration, nothing changes.