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derek johnson 850pxNot enough people know that Bury St Edmunds has such a huge and nationally renowned School of Art & Design. It is a real point of regional pride. We now have almost 500 students in our purpose-built Leonardo House building. These range from sixteen year olds right through to degree level on our outstanding university courses.

We are living in interesting times! We are in the Digital and Communication Age. Exciting stuff! Many aspects of lives have changed in the past 20 years… and continue to change rapidly. At the heart of this is the internet, our phones, streamed entertainment into our homes, mind-blowing games, fast fashion, product innovation and architecture.

When recounting stories to my own teenage offspring and our college students of the 1980s when I was their age they cannot believe the change themselves – and are strangely fascinated… I think! I have fond memories of buying vinyl records from Andy’s Records in St Johns Street and biking with my mates from Stanton to Ixworth to hire VHS films from Webb’s Video Store… and then all the way back to return them! Happy days! We cannot help but ask ourselves what we have both gained and lost with the change. One thing we will never lose is nostalgia. The fact that Vinyl Hunter is now flourishing in selling records down St Johns Street and that our students are working with them to produce 7-inch record sleeves shows this - and the human need for physical, tactile objects. Old and new can co-exist. Retro-arcade games are loved by the young generation, and these sit comfortably next to new products such as Red Dead Redemption 2. Our Computer Games Design students embrace both forms – and everything in between. Our photography students have grown up to be skilled with digital technology… but once they are in our chemical darkroom they feel like they have really entered a new, unexplored world. Unexpected things happen outside the rules of digital technologies – creativity loves the unexpected. In the School of Art and Design you will see our students working with the highest level digital technologies – alongside raw, hands-on materials. The results are surprising and incredible.

Currently the Creative Industries contribute £92 billion per year to UK GDP and employs one in seven of the UK workforce. This is massive. We are world leaders. Located between Cambridge and London also puts us in the heart of the UK Creative/Digital hubs. These careers are well-paid, challenging and often international in scope. The World Economic Forum states that, by 2020, creativity will be one of the top 3 skills needed for future employment alongside critical thinking and complex problem solving. Our central government need to digest this - please. There is a deeply concerning hole in the government’s strategic approach – an odd view that art, design and creativity means throwing paint around and drawing apples! Time to wake up to the reality of the creative economy. In the film industry alone Disney have spent over £2.8 billion to make significant parts of their Star Wars and Marvel film franchise in the UK. The UK gaming industry is worth £4.3 billion. We have a rich history of creative excellence, flair and a good sprinkling of madness. This is serious stuff.

As a result I now rarely hear student and parents ask if there are any jobs at the end of their courses. Our courses are flourishing in specialist career areas of digital arts, fashion, publishing, graphic design, interior design, fashion promotion, photography, games design, model making and visual effects/animation.

Not enough people know that Bury St Edmunds has such a huge and nationally renowned School of Art & Design. It is a real point of regional pride. We now have almost 500 students in our purpose-built Leonardo House building. These range from sixteen year olds right through to degree level on our outstanding university courses.

As I said we live in very interesting times – and in the UK Creative Industries and School of Art & Design at West Suffolk College we are thriving on it!