The annual Tanween season is stimulating creativity and promoting the creative economy in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
The creative industries are prospering as never before in Saudi Arabia. And a clear sign of that is the third Tanween season due to open on 28 October at Ithra, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, in Saudi Arabia.
Tanween is an annual season that celebrates and promotes creativity. It’s undeniably successful: in 2019, the event attracted more than 100,000 visitors. And, with an increased focus on online content, it is hoped that in 2020 even more people will engage with the unique hybrid of online and in-person interactive opportunities including masterclasses, workshops and talks.
“The New Next: Bridging the Gap” is the theme of Tanween this year. The “New Next” is the world after the coronavirus pandemic, and the gap to be bridged is the need for more opportunities for Saudi Arabian professionals in the arts, design and communication sectors. The talent is already there, as Tanween proves. But the Arab world has been less successful than Europe and North America at turning its creativity into GDP.
That’s all changing. The creative economy is taking on increasing importance in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s Vision 2030 specifically references “increasing participation in cultural, environment, and sports activities” as part of the Quality of Life vision. The aim is to grow the Saudi contribution to regional and global arts and culture.
Looking back, reaching forward
Traditional culture is important, of course. Traditional elements such as music, fashion, food and craft all have a strong part to play in Saudi culture. But so do more forward-looking areas such as architecture, filmmaking, product design and interactive media.
By emphasising these, Saudi Arabia can position itself as a modern, even cutting-edge, global player in the creative space. And because cultural activities encompass the whole of humanity, growing cultural participation strengthens diversity and inclusivity in Saudi Arabian society.
The Tanween creativity season is helping all this come about. It is designed to stimulate creativity and empower the creative industries within the kingdom. And by supporting the development of the creative economy, and the talent that it requires, it will promote innovative thinking and a creative mindset across all sectors of the Saudi economy.
The focus on the future, the “New Next”, within the Tanween conference is important. We live in difficult and fast-changing times. There is a need to understand how culture and creativity can respond to uncertainty, and Tanween addresses this. The past may well be a foreign country. But so is the future, and we will do things very differently there. By understanding that, we can prepare for the future and even accelerate its most positive aspects.
Creativity for the creative industries
First and foremost, Tanween is an interactive experience and a creative environment. Visitors can explore the ingredients and processes of creativity and discover their own creative potential by attending the inspirational talks by world renowned creative experts. Or they can participate online in live masterclasses with international creative professionals And if that sounds tiring, visitors will have access to a wide range of energising drinks and snacks. Food is very much part of the festival’s cultural offering!
It’s an event designed to generate and share knowledge. Tanween is bringing leading regional and global creative thinkers together to debate creativity. There is Sir Martin Sorrell, for instance, who will discuss the role that creativity has within a data-led industry. Joanna Pena Bickley, R&D lead designer for Alexa Devices at Amazon, will explore the potential for voice- and AI-based services. And Disney’s Duncan Wardle will share his insights on how innovation services, design thinking and service design can transform traditional industries.
In addition, an open conference blogging platform will act as an opportunity to develop, curate and share insights from visitors. And there will be innovation masterclasses led by creative leaders, and creative challenges where participants can work together on real-life problems.
A major focus of the event is careers in the creative economy. New entrants will be helped to build their personal “brands” and develop their portfolios. There will be plenty of networking with prospective employers and even the chance to pitch ideas to prospective clients.
For more established professionals there will be workshops where the latest digital and creative tools can be tried out. And senior professionals will be able to network, discover up-and-coming talent, offer their mentorship, and meet start-ups with the innovative services that will drive the future.
As well as the physical activities taking place at Ithra, much of the festival will take place online. Tanween’s online elements will allow far greater access to the event, boosting inclusivity, opening it up to a global audience and letting local creative professionals who are unable to attend in person benefit from this rich experience.
In addition, online technology also allows greater interactivity and engagement, with visitors able to record their feelings for others, or get direct feedback from their actions. In fact, hosting part of the festival online will act as a catalyst to keep up with technological developments as well as allowing the organisers to experiment with hybrid delivery.
Culture transcends borders
Tanween shows that Saudi Arabia has a globally significant cultural and arts sector. It is a reflection of a society that is becoming more forward- and outward-looking, while at the same time maintaining the importance of its traditional culture.
The festival will be a global destination for people interested the arts, culture and innovative thinking. As the largest creativity festival in the Gulf region, it will be a place where talent for the creative and cultural economy is developed. It will stimulate ordinary citizens to think more about their own vibrant culture and the place it holds in the world.
Creative thinking is a strong force within Saudi Arabia. Together, Tanween and Ithra will power the creative economy and strengthen traditional industries through innovative thinking, helping to prepare the kingdom for its new future.
This annual Tanween creativity season is being held virtually as well as physically at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Ithra, in Al Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, between 28 and 31 October 2020. For more information and to sign-up for the online talks and masterclasses click here.