Creative Future is a vital social arts organisation based in Brighton which is doing sterling work in promoting marginalised (whether through homelessness, drug misuse, mental illness or long-term unemployment) writers and artists through their mentoring programmes, art exhibitions and now publications. Their finger firmly on the pulse of Brighton’s throbbing broken-toothed terraced creative vein, CF have managed to provide a long-needed forum for the less well-heeled of the city’s poets and painters. Brighton is a place which is almost pathologically creative, although many might argue that a large proportion of its output is fuelled on a certain amount of mock-bohemian pretention, and finding the genuinely gifted craftspersons – some of whom, by their very natures, are reclusive and publically unforthcoming, not to mention, in this case, forced to be so due to lack of money or stigmas of disability – among the morass of very mixed talents, natural born networkers and a certain endemic breed of fame-hungry performers who range from the novel to the risible, can be a little like finding the proverbial needles in a haystack. There is of course the annual Brighton Festival – practically VIPs only these days – and the growingly exclusive Brighton Fringe Festival (soon no doubt to inspire a counter-Fringe Fringe Festival), but all of course marketed on the dubious pretext of being ‘inclusive’ (so as to tick the proverbial politically correct boxes for arts funding forms, and so on). But the festivals continue to exclude the underprivileged artists of the Brighton community due to their exorbitant charges for inclusion in their glossy brochures, and are largely middle-of-the-road, middle-class affairs; to their own detriment in the long term, lacking the real edge and grit that a wider social inclusion would gift them.
Thankfully now the city has an organisation like Creative Futures to start parting the fiscal barriers and opening the doors to those local writers, poets and painters on the social margins. A truly important organisation that is in many ways enacting today the very same principles of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 19th century: bringing art and culture to the ordinary people by, crucially, facilitating their participation in it. It can be out of such movements as this that society, not only on a material and social, but also artistic and spiritual basis, can rejuvenate itself and move forward in a humanistic sense. A sort of Arts Socialism in which many of us are still recusant believers, and which ultimately, by igniting a new revolution in thought, might very well in time prove to be an intellectual and social anecdote to the slow-coursing poison of Thatcherite materialism, which has stunted this country’s cultural growth over the past thirty years. I firmly believe it is organisations such as Creative Futures that will play their part in a wider renaissance throughout our country – if we support them that is. They need continued generous patronage to fulfil their admirable and worthwhile socio-artistic aims, and face many barriers of snobbery no doubt in the more well-heeled and established literary elites of the scene. Having said this, I sincerely hope my cynicism here is misplaced. But the biggest challenge of all is for organisations such as CF not to be perceived as creating arts ghettos for the marginalised, which is implacably not its intention, nor by the evidence of the work it has been promoting to date, their remit. CF seems focussed on promoting the best quality work by the marginalised artists they represent and this bravery of approach – as opposed to flakier political correctness – is also to be applauded.