Vibrant work from Cambridge Creative and photographer, John FahyJohn Fahy

Is there space for creativity at Cambridge? Creativity could be seen as that distantsphere which exists beyond the weekly essay. But with that sphere being so small in Cambridge, the desire of students for an artistic outlet poses a problem at our university.

In 2013 Jack Collier and Eliska Haskova responded to this by founding the Cambridge Creatives, "a magazine, a network, and partly a challenge to you" in answer to this quest for "non-academic" creativity in Cambridge. Following their exhibition on 15th October, I talk with some of the contributors and directors to find out what Cambridge Creatives (CC) is all about.

Rebekah-Miron Clayton begins by telling me that "CC is an online platform that connects creative people across the University. It’s a place where they can experiment, and see other Creatives' work." Hopefully, this mix of unbiased publishing and creative networks will lead to new ways of thinking about what ‘art’ actually is and how different genres of creativity interact.

I ask if they think academia tends to suffocate independent creative and practical work. "Obviously at a university like Cambridge where academia is such a demanding focal point, it would seem that creativity in all its forms would be somewhat stifled," replies Clayton. "This was even the case with Ted Hughes, who began studying English at Pembroke only to find his writing... [stifled] by the 'terrible, suffocating, maternal octopus' of literary tradition.

However I believe that it is due to the type of passionate and inspired individuals the university attracts that the level of creative talent we have is booming and needs a platform such as CC."

I note that the CC initiative intends to help make "the first steps towards careers in the arts easier" and so I ask if many of the Creatives will embrace their creativity and turn it into a life-project, in light of the fact that a number of commissions have already been made through the site.

Clayton says she can't be sure how many will choose to turn their work into a career. But she assures me that, "through Cambridge Creatives, art is nurtured and developed and as a result people who may never have felt the confidence to publish may well take their first step on that ladder with CC." Certainly, I have found that CC is all about changing attitudes and perceptions of art and engaging in what art can be.

Yet this does not mean to say that CC considers itself anything like an artistic movement. "It could be described as an artistic movement within the university due to its core principles of creativity without restriction of judgement or boundaries," Clayton explains. "However an ‘artistic movement’ sounds a little bit high-brow for CC.

"We don’t see ourselves as an exclusive club. There isn’t a single Picasso amongst us. Rather, we’re a facilitator for others. What CC wants to do is break boundaries, so that the Picassos can flourish, and they flourish no better than when networking, meeting and beholding other Picassos."

Her words draw me to the question I have been waiting to ask: what does it mean to be creative?

"The directors all disagree on this one," Clayton laughs. "James Donovan, the Technical Director, thinks creativity is building lines of code. He’s odd like that. Jack [Collier] has almost no creativity and so the pursuit of anything slightly off-beat is, to him, wondrous. Eliska is fairly atypical and is quite creative. She’s a photographer though, so really just focuses on using light in different ways.”

For Clayton however, it means, "using a creative medium to tap into human thought and consciousness.

"It is to release and share a part of who you are and how you view the world, into a form of expression of any kind. Creativity is to communicate and find your own truth in the efforts of others.”

Before our time is up we turn to discussing the Cambridge Creatives exhibition that took place on Wednesday to discover where the genesis for the idea came from. David Godwin says they "wanted to create an event which celebrated CC’s previous year and promoted our message. There was no specific theme to the exhibition. Instead, we want to show a range of work from different mediums and levels of experience, offering a place where everyone could feel welcome.”

All this excitement leaves me wondering what could be next. What is the future of Cambridge Creatives? “The future of Cambridge Creatives is boundless,” they tell me. “What started in the small, sleepy town of Cambridge, strangely, may well end up on the other side of the world. CC will always be a platform designed to make change in the creative world.

"The things that will change are the tools. Last year, the concept was tested with a fairly basic setup. The response was fantastic. This year, we have got a new team, a new swanky website, and a plan to continue adding new features and converting people to the cause. We’ve even opened up shop in Oxford (so get ready for some cross-collaborative events).” The future, then, is looking bright for these students.

Having spoken to the directors and learned about the structure and ethos of CC, I wanted to know more. So I decided to speak with one of their artists, John Fahy. Fahy is a Cambridge Creative, a photographer and a PhD student in Social Anthropology at King’s.

I find the diversity of Cambridge Creatives – and of creativity itself – reflected in his photography. These pictures take the viewer far away from Cambridge, they crystallise and conflate dreamlike ideas reminiscent of exploration with portraits of individuals.

While I sit by the fireplace in his room to begin the interview I see a keyboard, his photo-equipment and an endless sequence of books about India, almost as many as the hundreds of photos he took during his fifteen months of fieldwork research. The room is in fact more an artistic studio rather than a student room and Fahy is clearly somebody who has not given up creativity for academia.

My discussion with the directors of Cambridge Creatives has left me thinking about ‘inspiration’ and the modes in which it operates, particularly in Cambridge. Are these the same for all types of creatives? Do they think creation happens in the mind of a painter the same way it happens in the mind of a photographer, for example?

Fahy tells me, "I would guess that the processes, the pace and the rhythm are very different. Of course photography includes going out into the world, immersing yourself, and coming back with a bunch of photos to choose from and edit appropriately.

"They both share considerations of composition, colour, and so on. I am not sure to what extent creativity happens in the mind though? I know from playing music and certainly from photography, that while you consciously guide yourself into situations or through familiar chords, it’s often the unplanned moment that defines the creative act."

Fahy also writes a blog. I ask him whether photography can be seen as a self-sufficient art or if it requires the explanation of the photographer. After reflection he admits, "there are those who think that captions, blogs or anything along those lines betray the purity of the photograph, and that any communication between the photographer and the audience should be restricted to the frame of the photo." But he adds assuredly, "I have never heard any good reason for this though."

We finish the interview and I get up to leave. It is at this moment that Fahy stands up, quickly grabbing his camera and pointing it out of the window facing King’s College Chapel like a rifle. He takes a photograph of a small sign that reads ‘mind your head’ placed above King’s front gate.

A passer-by would not see it. "A sign for people 15 feet tall!" he says ironically. It seemst that Creativity can really be found in anywhere in Cambridge.

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