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Renee Vaughan Sutherland In Conversation With Verity Babbs

We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask some questions to Renee Vaughan Sutherland over at Greater Than 11%. Greater Than 11% , two years in, has a successful creative agency, event schedule, blog, and zine – and of course, their podcast that started it all.

The podcast discusses “roles and opportunities within the creative industries with the aim of improving diversity”, celebrating the achievements of women and non-binary creatives.

The biggest issue in relation to inequality in the creative industries I would say is the severe lack of diversity. Discrimination and forms of oppression are the subsequent symptoms.

Renee Vaughan Sutherland
Renee Vaughan Sutherland
Q: First thing’s first, introduce yourself! Who are you and what is Greater Than Eleven%?

A: Hi Verity, thanks for the invite to Art Plugged. I am Renee, artist, creative director and founder of Greater than 11% – a collective organisation whose mission is to contribute to more equal and diverse creative industries within years, not decades.

Q: How did >11% come about?

A: Back in May 2018, I was at an event where the speaker shared that “only 11% of women held the title of Creative Director in the UK Media & Communications industry.” That figure was even more severe for women of colour, landing at around 3%. It will come as no surprise to you and Art Plugged readers that those woefully low percentages aren’t exclusive to the advertising sector; they appear across the entire creative industry.

Those statistics haunted me, I knew I had to do something if I ever wanted to sleep properly again. I thought about my own experiences and creative journey, which was not a straight line by any means. It occurred to me that the pipeline is a significant factor in terms of diversity – if you have no way of knowing or considering a career centred around your creative talents and skills, then you don’t even arrive at the next hurdle – trying to get your foot in the industry door.

I wanted to create a resource that was free to all, that detailed creative careers whilst promoting women, and arrived at a podcast. I committed to making weekly episodes for a year. It was more successful then I could have ever imagined, with just shy of 12k downloads – which was all organic. Over the course of that year I realised I needed to do more to support others and contribute to bringing about equality more quickly. I committed to expanding what I was doing to speed up reaching the original aim. I started hosting events and created a platform online to extend the reach, working towards forming a collective creative agency with diversity built into its processes and service offering.

The podcast is now in its 2nd Series, and is co-hosted by the ferociously smart and naturally effervescent Crystal Eisinger. We have interviewed 80+ women about their jobs and how they got to where they are.

You can find out more about what we do and how we do it at greaterthan11.com.

Greater Than 11% Event
Q: What do you think the biggest issues are vis-a-vis inequality in the creative industries?

A: This is a biggie. I’ve started to answer this several times over.

The biggest issue in relation to inequality in the creative industries I would say is the severe lack of diversity. Discrimination and forms of oppression are the subsequent symptoms.

Within current structures and processes across all creative sectors – from the performing arts to media & comms, where you land intersectionally directly impacts on your opportunities. We are seeing change and witnessing more acknowledgement and recognition of outdated, discriminatory systems and biases, but we have a hell of a way to go.

Renee Vaughan Sutherland with Michelle Williams Gaamaker
Q: What is the future of >11%? 

A: In our immediate future we are focused on promoting our creative agency, GT11 Creative. It came about as a direct result of the podcast and subsequent discussions we were having with contributors. Formed from a collective of creatives and artists, GT11 Creative is able to scale and retract to deliver on bespoke briefs large and small across the visual arts, performance and media and comms. We are embedding diversity within the foundation of our practice and nurture new talent as we grow.

Longer term it is our ambition that GT11 Creative thrives, that we create groundbreaking art and communications that in itself contributes to change from concept through to audience engagement.

It is my dream that we have a space that is buzzing, where coming to work is a joy and an opportunity to create and learn on a daily basis, and that we create a way of working that can be replicated to ultimately help us achieve our mission – equal and diverse creative industries.

Q: Who are your biggest inspirations? 

A: I am easily inspired. You only have to listen to one podcast episode to hear how impassioned I get about creativity 😂 .

Derek Jarman is and will always be one of my biggest inspirations – I love his films and his activism. I have adopted him as my spiritual godfather.

Barbara Jordan is a more recent inspiration – when I’m feeling fatigued and need a boost, I listen to her speeches on YouTube.

Tacita Dean and Kara Walker – their work always lingers in my mind for days after seeing, experiencing it.

Filmmakers – Sally Potter, Lynne Ramsy, Warwick Thornton, Werner Herzhog, Andrei Tarkovsky, Kenneth Anger – this list could go on forever so I will stop here.

Nadine Ijewere’s pictures I’m obsessed with, Sophie Mayanne’s photos can stop you in your tracks and Claude Cahun – argh amazing!

Renee Vaughan Sutherland with Maria Petitrides
Q: Social Media as a tool for artists – pro or anti? Has it contributed to or alleviated some inequality? 

A: Back in the day I was definitely anti but I quickly discovered I could access, learn about more fantastic work and be inspired, so quickly switched to pro. That said, I personally think it needs to be used with consideration and care in the context of sharing / promoting your work.

It has definitely alleviated inequality – people are able to promote and sell their work through social media – creating an alternative currency outside the typical institutions. This is fantastic and can give creative people more control over how they live and thrive.

Renee Vaughan Sutherland with Astrid Goldsmith
Q: What are you angry about right now? 

A: We are inching out of lockdown and there seems to be a lack of financial support for creatives across the board. The UK Government announced £1.57 billion for the creative industries in early July. This was followed up in the media with what felt like an echo as it was bouncing around all over the place ‘for the crown jewels’ referencing institutions such as the Royal Albert Hall. Yes those spaces and associated jobs are important but so are the many creatives that typically tend to live in financial precarity which Covid19 has only compounded.

This has taken their lack of security to another level. I’m actually more fearful than angry- many of my colleagues, peers and friends are staring at uncertainty in the coming months (including myself). Crystal and I are currently in deep planning and conversations on how we can raise funds to support our fellow creatives – channeling our anger into problem solving and solution. I will come back to you on this Verity when we have our plans in place.

All Rights Reserved © Copyright Greater Than 11% Bronac McNeil 2020

Art Plugged is a contemporary online creative gallery, inspired by our relationship with the wider arts communities, and our passion to showcase great work on this platform. We exhibit unique work from the global art scene.

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