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For information on Northern Lights, a collaboration between BLF and Edinburgh International Book Festival, please click here.

Join national and local colleagues from across the creative sector for a day of:

  • Thought-provoking panel discussions on topics such as diversity, funding and marketing.
  • ‘In Conversation’ events with creative sector luminaries.
  • Workshops with practical tips to inform best practice.
  • Both casual and structured networking opportunities.

Tickets are priced at £10*. This includes lunch and an evening drinks reception to close the conference.

Delegates will receive a link via email shortly after ticket purchase, which will allow them to select sessions they wish to attend, and advise of dietary requirements.

Our Creative Sector Industry Day is suitable for practitioners at all levels of seniority; some sessions may be more relevant to management level and above.

For more information contact us at:

*Discounted tickets are available for freelance attendees.

Sessions & Content

MORNING WELCOME | 9am – 9.10am

A welcome and overview of the day’s content from Festival Director, Syima Aslam.

KEYNOTE | 9.10am – 9.40am

MORNING SESSION 1 | 9.45am – 11am

Choice of either:

A.  Diversifying Audiences – Not Just a “Tick Your ‘Ethnic Group’” Exercise

The Creative Case for Diversity is at the heart of sector policy, and the practice of most organisations – but too often, this emphasis can make increasing audience diversity a conundrum to be solved, a numerical target to be achieved – or worse – a box to be ticked – with a narrow focus on ethnicity, without approaching diversity in a more holistic, fashion.

In this panel, opening with a provocation delivered by Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company, we will explore how, by increasing the socioeconomic diversity of audiences, creative sector organisations will naturally find that they reach more diverse audiences across the board, including in terms of ethnicity and ability.


  • Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company
  • Abid Hussain – Director of Diversity, Arts Council England
  • Hassan Mahamdallie – Playwright, writer, and author of The Creative Case for Diversity
  • Yasir Mirza – Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Channel 4

B. Designing Public Value with Purpose

At a time when the funding landscape is increasingly uncertain, and organisations are under pressure to find and develop new funding streams, many organisations may find it difficult to stay focussed and true to their aims and practice.

Lisa Baxter (The Experience Business) will share her transformational programme on how to develop a compelling, mission-aligned, values-driven narrative with the power attract, galvanise and inspire potential new stakeholder-investors. With a focus on public value, this session is aimed at people and organisations looking to find support for work in the public and civic realms.

Come and experience why organisations such as Arts Council Australia, Arts Council Wales and Leeds Summer School in Arts, Philanthropy and Fundraising have all platformed ‘Designing Public Value With Purpose’ and have a go at applying the process to your own business.


  • Lisa Baxter – The Experience Business

MORNING SESSION 2 | 11.15am – 12.30pm

Choice of either:

CANCELLED – A.  Social Mobility Cold Spots: The Culture Sector and the City

Bradford has levels of social mobility and cultural participation, which are amongst the lowest in the country.

We know that where engagement with the arts and culture increases amongst children and families, levels of educational achievement, ambition and ultimately, social mobility, follow suit. But in cities like Bradford, with entrenched intergenerational cycles of underachievement and under-engagement, increasing social mobility represents a challenge for local authorities, central government and national NGOs. So, how can the culture sector make a tangible impact in such difficult environments?

In this thought-provoking panel discussion, Bradford will be used as a case study to explore how the way in which Local Authorities, initiatives (such as the Opportunity Area) and practitioners themselves, envision the creative sector is a key factor in improving social mobility.


  • Anne-Marie Canning – Independent Chair, Bradford Opportunity Area
  • Imran Hussain MP – MP for Bradford East

B.  Creative Practice: Towards the Circular Economy

The straight lines of the linear economy – make, waste, dispose – are under increasing scrutiny in the production and consumption of goods; but how can the creative sector contribute to a successful move towards the circular economy?

From advertising ‘selling’ consumers waste-free living, to commissioning TV and film content which puts sustainability at the heart of public discourse; from the development of no-waste arts and culture venues, to the development of educational content… this panel discussion will bring together experts in sustainability, the circular economy and innovation in the creative sector, for a discussion that will capture the imagination, and leave practitioners at all levels inspired and ready to do their bit to develop sustainability within the sector, and broader society.


  • Professor Amir Sharif – Professor of Circular Economy, University of Bradford
  • Lucy Wood – Creative Producer and Writer: Climate Change, Food Systems and Migration

C.  Workshop Session: Unconscious Bias

Unconscious Bias is the unspoken judgement we make on people and situations, without any active effort. Influenced by our personal histories and unique experiences, it affects every decision we make, large and small.

For creative practitioners unconscious bias can be potentially problematic in all areas of their work. This workshop led by expert Smita Tharoor, will help delegates unpack their instinctive presumptions, and understand how they can rid themselves of biases they didn’t even know that they had, overcome the instinctive application of prejudices and micro-judgements, and ultimately, shift towards fairer, more inclusive professional practice.


  • Smita Tharoor – founder of Tharoor Associates, a training, coaching and organisational development company that understands the significance of the unconscious bias.

 LUNCH | 12.30pm – 1.25pm

AFTERNOON SESSION 1 | 1.30pm – 3pm

Choice of either:

A.  Diversity: Colonialism in the Creative Sector

‘Powerful’ is an evergreen adjective for the creative sector, applied to both artists and the works they produce (sometimes it seems indiscriminately!). The inherent power of art, and the artist, to inspire, move, educate, entertain audiences, is at the very heart of creative practice.

But for BAME artists, how far does their ‘power’ extend, if they are constantly viewed through the lens of ‘the other’? If there is an implied requirement to ask permission to work within a physical or conceptual space? And if the act of creation or curation is consistently undermined by a need to explain an adherence to, or rejection of, perceived ‘cultural’ or ‘ethnic’ backgrounds?

This panel will not seek to answer these questions, but will instead seek to highlight and explore these postcolonial tensions within the sector, as well as examining practical questions of representation such as – how can we increase artistic diversity? What are the barriers to this increase? And how can non-BAME practitioners make space for BAME artists to realise their power, in ways that make a tangible difference?


  • Bernardine Evaristo – Award-winning author, Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature
  • Hassan Mahamdallie – Playwright, writer, and author of The Creative Case for Diversity
  • Sharmilla Beezmohun, Co-Founder, Speaking Volumes

B.  Marketing: Change Your Practice, Raise Your Profile

Good marketing is crucial to the success of creative sector organisations, but in a sector increasingly reliant on digital channels, when web design, app development and branding are all costly to outsource, and sometimes impossible to undertake to a high standard in-house – how can organisations with limited budget ensure that their marketing, both digital and via more traditional methods, is effective, impactful, sets them apart from the crowd, builds audiences, attracts funders …. And is fit for purpose?

In this interactive talk, presented by M&C Saatchi, an independent creative agency, delegates will be offered inspiring suggestions for how they can shake up their marketing plans with both short-term, high-impact projects, and longer-term strategy, to build a brand that raises the organisation’s profile – with a strategy that works for them, and their budgets.


  • Clare Richardson
  • Fran Gregory
  • Nadia Singh
  • Jared Shurin

C.  Librarians and Publishers Meet Up

This informal meet-up event for local and regional librarians, and national, regional and local publishers, facilitated by New Writing North’s Will Mackie, will offer an opportunity for publishers to connect with the people on the frontline of developing a reading culture, and supporting the wider book ecosystem.


  • Will Mackie – Project Manager of the Northern Writers’ Awards and main contact for libraries, publishers and authors involved in Read Regional.

AFTERNOON SESSION 2 | 3.15pm – 4.30pm

Choice of either:

A.  Northern Stars

Brexit… political turmoil… economic uncertainty… climate crisis… whichever way you turn, the world in 2019 can look unremittingly bleak.

Yet, amidst the uncertainty and gloom, publishers across the Northern regions are putting out extraordinary examples of literary fiction, poetry, graphic novels, pamphlets… and the energy in the sector is palpable.

Join some of the region’s most visionary industry publishing professionals, as they explore the challenges that may lie ahead for Northern publishing in the short and longer term, suggest their ideas for innovative solutions and set out their visions for the bright future of publishing in the north.


Samuel McDowell – Charco Press

Mairi Kidd – Creative Scotland


B. Beyond Extremism and Arranged Marriage: Representing Muslim Characters on TV

The Riz Test – five criteria to measure how Muslim characters are displayed on film and TV, was inspired by actor Riz Ahmed’s 2017 address to the House of Commons.

Irrationally angry, involved in terrorism (as a victim or a perpetrator), superstitious, misogynistic, oppressed… a threat to the Western way of life… our panellists will examine the representation of Muslim characters, and ask what are the real-world impacts of these damaging media stereotypes  – and how can we move beyond the Riz Test, to a screen industry that represents 3.5 million British Muslims, without reverting to implicitly prejudiced, Islamophobic tropes.


  • Caroline Hollick – Head of Drama, Channel 4
  • Youssef Kerkour – Actor
  • Amna Saleem – Writer and broadcaster