Callum McGeoch – creativity and space

Livity’s Executive Creative Director Callum McGeoch has had a varied career. He studied Marine Biology at University, stumbled into music management and ended up in journalism, all before heading up Livity’s creative output. We’ve been catching up with him about creative development and the importance of stimulating spaces.

How did you go from Marine Biology to creativity?

It was a toss up to apply for English or Marine Biology when I was deciding what to study at University. However I knew early on that I wasn’t built to be a scientist. You have to remain incredibly focused on one subject for years at a time. I had a short attention span and broad interests. I was more interested in communicating things that I found interesting, rather than unearthing new science.

After graduating and moving back to London I could see my future life working in a bank and thought ‘hell no’. So I walked into Long Haul recording studio and asked for some work experience. A couple weeks later they offered me a job in music management, which I absolutely hated.

A year later I quit my job to do a one week work placement at the Independent. A combination of positive attitude, some ability and a lot of luck I managed to land a five month freelance contract, covering maternity leave. So I became a journalist, writing about anything from hair brushes to underpants. I was a journalist for ten years and eventually became an Editor for Dazed and Confused.

The worlds of publishing and marketing were beginning to converge at that point. I was getting paid as an editor but I was doing a lot of brand marketing, coming up with ideas for articles, events, tours, and very early digital campaigns. I decided I would prefer be creative in marketing and write on the side rather than being a journalist doing marketing. I was mentoring at Live magazine at the time which is where I got introduced to the great work Livity does, so I joined.

The reasons I have dedicated my life to Livity is that I went to a privileged school, grew up in a upper middle class family in London and had the ability to work for almost nothing for about two years. I had the ability to swan around and interview rappers. I think I have benefitted from a completely unfair system. Livity challenges this system.

As a creative what is the relationship between space and your practice?

As a writer a conceptual creative space isn’t really a physical commodity. It’s a headspace. It’s a combination of stimulation and peace and quiet.

By stimulating environment, I mean things like the streets, cultural institutes and colourful characters in the market or a park.

Peacefulness is more about solidarity, a quiet place with no distraction. For me this is normally three o’clock in the morning, but it could easily be a little quiet room with not to many distractions, or a library.

Having a creatively rich world is about it’s cultural diversity, economic diversity and having people from all walks of life and different backgrounds in one space. It’s imperative to allow young artists, students and makers to be able to exist to ensure our environment doesn’t become stale, sterile or oversaturated with corporate companies. That’s why London is the arguably the most creative city in the world. You only have to spend an afternoon in Zurich or Brussels to see that their lack of diversity results in a lack of creatively interesting areas. The cities become devoid of inspiration or ideas.

If there are no spaces to access, areas become ghettoised and the stimulation and inspiration dries up. So while I don’t often need space, I do need to live in an area where hungry young creative people can do interesting things.

What do you think the impact of spaces in London being closed down or becoming unaffordable has had on the London’s creative scene?

I’m not overly gloomy about it because these things go in cycles. Also art and creativity often emerge out of deprivation.

Creatives are getting squeezed out of the city. In the 60’s the most creative part of London was Chelsea and now that area is completely devoid of creativity. Now you’ll find the interesting, young, innovative and creative people are in Deptford and Haggerston, creating mini creative ghettos.

The current crisis is the residentialisation of London. The centre of London is filling up with empty flats. These investment will at some point need to be sold or rented out, which is when they’ll realise that by killing the street life they have damaged their return. Something will have to happen to convince people to come back to these areas, which I’m sure somewhereto_ can play a role in.

Do you think there is a solution to counteract these problems?

There will have to be some government intervention at some point. Something along the lines of implementing major tax hikes for unoccupied spaces in the centre of London. Inducing a new landscape for property guardianship and a rejuvenation of youth activity.

An increase in squatting and illegal raves would help.. and be fun. We’d have to re-position squatting as an act of creating value rather than being viewed as crusty decadence. Some of the most creative times in modern history have been driven by squats. Berlin in the 80’s, New York in the 70’s. The city needs to declare itself open to young creative talent from around the world.

Learn more about London’s Creative crisis here. You can sign up to support the somewhereto_ campaign here.