With the first day of the XpoNorth 2021 two-day event concluding on June 16th, the virtual summit provided in an in-depth look at the creative industries of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.
Technology, culture, and the economy have all transformed the creative sector in the past few years. This transformation has been accelerated by the challenges posed by Covid-19.
In the day’s opening address, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes laid out some of the event’s key themes and pointed to the resilience and adaptability of Scotland’s creative industries in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perhaps the central theme of XpoNorth 2021 was stories and storytelling – in particular, the new ways that have developed in the last few years. New technology is a key driving force behind these innovations. Covid-19 has also forced the industry to adapt, and how the creative industries have turned challenges into opportunities was another key theme.
In addition, Forbes noted how collaboration is a vital part of the creative economy.
In his B2B Podcasting talk, Sam Delaney noted that the technological revolution has helped democratise storytelling – podcasts, video blogging and streams have helped bring more people online and widened the variety of stories available.
Meanwhile, Lights, Camera and Format looked at adapting stories to different formats and locations. The panellists noted that while there are many options available for reformatting a piece of media, what is essential is good storytelling.
As an event celebrating a specific and beautiful region of Scotland, the importance of location came up many times at XpoNorth 2021. This theme was explored in the Who Possesses the Landscape talk, along with the Shared Perspectives: Driving Culture Through Place discussion.
In addition, the Film Here! panel discussed how the Highlands and Islands can emulate the example of countries like Iceland and Canada to make the region a popular destination for filming. And as the History on Film panel, hosted by Sir Tony Robinson noted, the massive success of Outlander has helped build the profile of the area, not just as a location, but also as a setting full of rich history.
However, building these industries can prove challenging. The legacy of the industrial revolution is still strong in these areas, as many people were driven from their homes. A brain drain still occurs in these places, with educated young people leaving their homes to work in tech centres in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and even across the world.
However, the Shared Perspectives: Driving Culture Through Place discussion noted that the rise of digital technologies, which have been become popular during the pandemic, have helped change this. The rise of remote working, video conferencing and other telecommunication can help workers relocate and still work alongside their peers in tech centres.
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The importance of new technology was a critical part of the Museums Immersive Network discussion. They highlighted the way technology helped the creative industries continue operating through successive lockdowns.
The likes of 3D models, digital scanning, and virtual tours allowed the Highlands and Islands’ museums to offer digital experiences to online visitors. In addition to reaching new audiences and retaining old ones through the pandemic, immersive technology can also enhance the museum experience for real-life visitors.
By using holographic technology, and virtual and augmented reality, technology can help bring the history of the Highlands and Islands into the 21st century.