In February 2017, along with two other UK hubs, The FuseBox was invited by the Creative Economy team from the British Council to provide a two-day immersion visit to a group of visitors from various locations across southern African.
Our guests lead emerging and established creative spaces and online communities in Harare, Botswana, Cape Town and Jo’burg. Their visit aimed to be a fact-finding tour of some of creative digital clusters in London, Glasgow and Brighton.
These were our visitors and the hubs they manage:
Didintle Sholohelang Ntsie Black & Creative, Cape Town
Thabo Letsebe EDM Live Projects, Botswana
Ronald Dumisani Moyo Arts Hub, Zimbabwe
Rudo Nyangulu Stimulus, Harare, Zimbabwe
Constantine Nyanzero B2C Harare, Zimbabwe
Tawanda Henry Tsopotsa Courtauld Theatre Players, Mutare, Zimbabwe
Mduduzi Andrew Simelane J&B Hive, Johannesburg
Last year the FuseBox took part in a similar project where we hosted a week-long residency from a Hub Co-Founder in Ankara, Turkey (read about it here). So, we were thrilled to welcome in new visitors from overseas again to see where we could all share our experiences of running creative hubs.
So why does making new connections matters so much to us?
No matter of the location, starting a hub is big task. If we can share our experience to help a fledging space get inspired and take flight, it helps make the most of both our failures and successes. Also, we know our own learning is never finished. The more we can learn from others, the better. Lastly, we recognise the strength in numbers. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do and so ensuring Brighton is part of a supportive and active network of worldwide hubs comes at the top of our core aims.
Hubs grow from Places
One of the most interesting discussions we had with our guests was the relationship between a hub and where it is based. The FuseBox is clear that its focus on integrating arts-based approaches with technology is a direct result of its location in Brighton and the value that the Brighton Fuse highlighted in such an approach. But it is not just the methods employed but the end result too. We talked about the ubiquity of the Silicon Valley approach to tech, whereby young men design businesses which solve their own problems (hence the plethora of food delivery apps). Our visitors talked about how that approach even impacted on them, with businesses initially trying to solve the problems of first world men until a revised focus was made on confronting the challenges and needs that they faced, where they were.
Didintle Ntsie from Black + Creative talked about trying to tip the balance of fair hiring in Capetown. We also heard the story of Courtauld Theatre Players, providing a workspace for artists in Mutare, Zimbabwe with ambitions of starting a new tech space for their community. We listen to Rudo Nyangulu tell the group that Stimulus was about alleviating poverty by creating jobs and that focussed on the quality and the social impact companies they supported.
Touring Brighton’s other Hubs
Our guests got involved in Ted Talk Tuesday, our weekly tradition where residents take turns to host a Ted Talk to spark some interesting conversations over lunch. One of our residents; Fracture even got their Virtual Reality kit out for us to play around with for the occasion. Eager to offer context and showcase the quirky and creative culture of Brighton, we organised a tour of the Laines, Brighton Pavilion and a quick trip to the beach. Followed by a tour of some of our favourite Brighton hubs. A big thank you for hosting our visit to the following places: Brighton Studio, Build Brighton, Barclays Eagle Lab, The Skiff, Rodhus and Field Brighton. Our visitors loved all the places they visited, but Rodhus seemed to ignite the most excitement and conversation. It was great for us to meet the makers in their own workspaces and experience the lively atmosphere of the space first hand.
What did we learn?
We were reminded of the value of being a good listener. Hosting is a reciprocal relationship, if you have visitors, take the time to find out about their journey so far and also where they would like to be. It’s easy to be passive or even make assumptions. Nothing beats having an informal two-way chat to really find out about each other. Through our conversations, we learnt that we all had various ways of measuring success but faced the same challenge of ‘having a vision bigger than our pockets’ and also shared the ambition of being part of an international network of creative hubs.
We also learnt how to take stock. To not get stuck in a work bubble and losing sight of the bigger picture and missing opportunities right under your nose. Hosting visitors gives you a chance to view your surroundings from a fresh perspective and remind you of the things you may be taking for granted. During this trip, we were reminded of all the awesome projects taking place in Brighton and even helped us discover some new ones! We’re looking forward to maintaining our new friendships and gaining new connections as our FuseBox journey continues.
The trip was supported by the Creative Economy at the British Council alongside The Trampery, London and Taktal, Glasgow. A big thanks to Lynsey Smith for organising.
Get in touch
The FuseBox is a hub in Brighton run by and home to independent membership organisation Wired Sussex for digital innovators, tech visionaries and creative technologists. We provide innovators with access to spaces, facilities, opportunities and expertise. We currently house the Brighton Immersive Lab and a 5G testbed.