That was the advice a leading UK authority on arts innovation and regeneration gave when he spoke at the University of Ulster's Magee campus this week.
Creativity and regeneration - two of the North West’s dominant themes at present - were centre stage when Lord Michael Bichard, Executive Director of the Institute for Government and Chairman of the Design Council, spoke to an audience of business people, academics and cultural sector advocates.
Lord Bichard served as chairman of Bradford’s bid for European Capital of Culture and is a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts, London. He said that having had a brief look at the summary of the city's bid, he thought it “ very impressive”.
He was taking part in a video-conference yesterday hosted by University’s Ulster Business School linking the Londonderry campus with the Belfast campus, where the audience also included members of the Institute of Directors and Chief Executives’ Forum.
Derry's achievement in reaching the final four of the competition, which will be decided in mid-July, was a triumph in itself, he said.
Professor Deirdre Heenan, Dean of Academic Development and Acting Provost, welcomed the Magee participants, who included Aideen McGinley, chief executive of ILEX, and in Belfast, Valerie Watts, chief executive of Derry City Council.
Professor Heenan spoke of the importance to the cultural life of the city of the Magee-based School of Creative Arts and the campus’s growth in creative technologies. She also highlighted the University’s schools’ outreach programmes, which helps young people get a flavour of what university can offer them.
Professor Pauric McGowan of the Ulster Business School, who was host at the Belfast campus, said the Ulster Business School welcomed the opportunity to work collaboratively on the event with the Institute of Directors and the Chief Executives’ Forum.
He added: “With his considerable experience in public service, Lord Bichard is uniquely placed to give insights to the challenges and the potential rewards of what he has identified as a ‘whole area approach’ to the delivery of such services. His emphasis on creativity and culture in regional regeneration is one that will doubtless strike a chord with many in the northwest and indeed across the whole of Northern Ireland.”
Lord Bichard said culture and creativity were powerful forces that could help deliver on key regeneration criteria, such as confidence-building, economic growth, community engagement and ownership and physical improvements. But they needed to be sustainable, he emphasised.
“Uniquely, culture and creativity can provide a meeting place where people can share different histories, traditions, customs and different perspectives and show that it can help build understanding and trust. No regeneration is going to be successful unless you can achieve understanding and trust.”
He said that in the race to be the UK’s first City of Culture, Derry-Londonderry was up against strong competition in the shape of Birmingham, Sheffield and Norwich.
“In the context of the 2013 bid, I think sustainability – or legacy – will be absolutely crucial. That’s what the judges will be looking for.
“It is one thing to have - and you must have - an exciting programme of events for the year itself. But you need most of all to convince people that you are going to use this title, this status, to transfer Derry into the future by enhancing its skills base, developing its digital and creative economy and enhancing the city’s physical infrastructure.
“If you play your cards right..., focus on the legacy, the chance, the transformation that this (title) could help you produce in Derry, I just think that you might surprise people and win this.”