We want you to get to know our Champions better and so we sat down for a series of fascinating conversations to allow them to give us an insight into their role and involvement in Creative Estuary, what their aspirations are for the project and their love for our stunning estuary.
As an entrepreneur and intrapreneur, Ray has worked across the entire creative landscape from technology design and build through to production, delivery, distribution, and monetisation.
He sits on the Board of Trustees for The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, one of the most successful regional theatres in the UK, is the Thames Estuary Growth Board lead for ‘The Digital Estuary’ and the Thames Estuary Production Corridor. And we are delighted that he has also added Creative Estuary Champion to his list of achievements.
Tell us about your current role:
About a year ago I joined the Thames Estuary Growth Board as one of the private sector Board Leads, where I was asked to take the lead on digital and on the Production Corridor. I was approached because of my work experience over the last 25 years in the media; I’ve been a television producer for the United Nations, I’ve launched 18 TV channels in the US and UK across multiple genres, I ran a streaming company and in the last five years I’ve been working in the music industry focussing on future technologies. Oh, and two years ago I set up a record label that was all about skills training and career paths in the creative industries.
Why did you say “yes” to becoming one of our champions?
My awareness of Creative Estuary came through the Production Corridor – it sits uniquely and squarely within the area that the Thames Estuary Growth Board needs to support. So, it was very clear to me we were going to be working together and when I was asked to be a champion it was a no-brainer.
The idea of being able to use my professional voice in the media and address the challenge of how people like me, can live and work in the area and not shuffle off to London, New York or LA, and create the space and the community for that to happen.
And I am living proof of how it can work! I am an alumnus of Kent University, I went off and built my career and now I’ve come back and can work and live in this beautiful part of the planet. I am a proud ambassador – I have made it a place to live and work and couldn’t be happier to be a champion.
To you, what is the biggest draw of the Estuary for creatives?
Not wanting to sound like Visit Kent or Visit Essex, what’s not to draw someone here! You’re close to London, close to a dynamic coastline, there’s an abundance of geography – it’s inspirational. There’s space to breathe and live and grow. It ticks a lot of life boxes.
From a professional standpoint and a digital perspective, we have a blank slate, and that’s really unusual. We want people to live here and work with the world and so we have people who are asking the big questions about digital, infrastructure and connectivity.
As a result of the pandemic, the concept of “place” has changed. How are the creative industries adapting and/or how can the Creative Estuary help?
We don’t have all the answers and answers are still being explored. The pandemic has hit both the production and presentation aspects of the creative industries very hard. Creative Estuary is going to have a fantastic role in reimagining what this space is and what it means commercially as well as it’s impact on society. When the grand macroeconomics are hurt it’s usually the arts that suffer through funding. Funding is going to have to be tightened but that needs to be a catalyst for innovation.
One of our aims is for the Creative Estuary to be a place to inspire (investment, enterprise and productivity). What inspires you about Creative Estuary?
It’s the aspiration. I am somebody that was educated in the area, I went away and I chose to come back. Of all the places in the world I could have settled – and I could have quite literally chosen anywhere! – I chose to live here. And that is what I think the spirit of Creative Estuary is all about.
I got involved, and am inspired, because of the aspiration to lift people in the creative industries up from whatever working conditions or class they are born into. I grew up in Liverpool, six of us to one bedroom living below the poverty line, but if I hadn’t seen and experienced what I did in watching my dad working with and supporting TV production, theatres and musicians I would not have asked “what’s this all about?” and the aspirations to get out of the place where I was. I did it, and don’t get me wrong it has been very tough, but it can be hugely fulfilling and rewarding. Creative Estuary should make it more straightforward and hopefully easier for others to have careers in the creative industries; and isn’t that what we should be doing? I want to give other people the opportunities I have had to fight hard to get for myself.
What is your favourite place on the Thames Estuary?
Definitely Reculver. The space between Reculver and Herne Bay for a couple of reasons. Every single day there is a completely different land, gravel, shoreline, and sea. Every single day there is a different skyline. The water can be calm and warm, it can be icy freezing and filthy. And also, it’s deserted enough to feel remote, but familiar enough and close enough for you to make a getaway.
I feel alive on that stretch of the estuary.
To help tell the Creative Estuary story we are delighted to have the support of our Champions to advocate for us and amplify our vision.