In Focus: How Creativity Can Empower Rural Economies image
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Thursday 16th June 2022

In Focus: How Creativity Can Empower Rural Economies

2:30pm - 3:30pm

The creative economy is built on how communities, businesses and individuals can turn cultural knowledge into economic returns. With much of the research typically focussed on urban areas, this sessions offers a uniquely regional lens on one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors. With their own distinct stories, culture of innovation, sense of place and provenance, creative businesses in rural economies can be argued to have as much if not more to offer global consumers. As the importance of digital and the ability to more directly engage with consumers grows, the creative industries offers skills and knowledge essential to all other sectors. With the creative economy’s importance increasing across social, economic and political agendas, this fascinating panel will look at the value of the sector from a range of perspectives and its potential to transform rural economies.


    Irene McAra-McWilliam

    Irene McAra-McWilliam has international experience of creative leadership having worked as Director of Design Research for multinational Philips Electronics. She is currently Deputy Director Research & Innovation at The Glasgow School of Art and was responsible for establishing GSA’s Highlands and Islands Campus in Moray and the GSA’s new Innovation School. Irene was awarded an OBE in recognition of her work in Higher Education, Innovation and Design.

    Dennis Holm
    Senior Lecturer, University of the Faroe Islands

    Dennis was the mayor of the municipality of Vágur (population app. 1400) on Suðuroy, the southernmost of the Faroe Islands until the end of 2020. During this period he was also head of the board of the Faroese Municipal Organisation (Kommunufelag Føroya), worked as a researcher at the Research Center for Social Development, and the independent research centre within the social sciences- which merged with the University of the Faroe Islands in 2008. He also served as the Director of the Research Centre from 2005 to 2012. After 8 years as a mayor in municipal politics, he is now back at the department of History and Social science at the University of the Faroe Islands.

    Stuart Black
    Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise

    Stuart Black was appointed as HIE's Chief Executive in January 2022 having held the role of Area Manager for Moray previously. Originally from Inverness, he is a graduate of the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where he gained a doctorate in town and regional planning. Stuart began his career with the University of Aberdeen, before joining HIE for the first time in 1996, as head of economics. Between then and 2008, he held several posts covering different parts of the organisation’s remit. These included local enterprise company chief executive, director of strengthening communities, and director of global connections. From 2008 to 2020, he was a member of the senior team at the Highland Council, initially as director of planning and development, and later as executive chief officer for transformation and economy.

    Michael Rueger
    Creative Director, Innovation Lab, Ravensburger AG

    Michael has been Creative Director at Ravensburger Innovation Lab since 2013; before this, he worked for many years as a freelance Creative Director/ Producer for a range of advertising agencies, theme parks and toy companies. Across his diverse career, he has received several high-level International awards- including the Toy Innovation Award 2010 (for tiptoi®). Michael is a curious explorer and loves to think outside the box.

    Alex Smith
    Project Manager, XpoNorth

    Along with the team at Ironworks Venue, Alex project manages the delivery of XpoNorth’s bespoke suite of specialist creative economy development programmes, custom designed to encourage the continued growth and innovation of the sector across one of the country’s most diverse regions. He also oversees the curation and delivery of XpoNorth’s well-established annual conference which continues to attract representatives from some of the largest and most influential networks in the global marketplace. XpoNorth is Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) year-round support mechanism for creative, heritage and digital businesses based across the Highlands and Islands and is designed and delivered by ironworks Venue.


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