Ringan Ledwidge: creativity comes from real experience, not the internet

Ringan Ledwidge, award-winning commercials director and co-founder of production company Rattling Stick, on what inspires innovation, why creativity should be informed by real, lived experience, and Tom and Jerry matter.

Tom and Jerry epitomise creativity
Tom and Jerry epitomise creativity

Tom and Jerry epitomise creativity. Tom’s elaborate kill-creations, despite his continual failure, exactly manifest the inherent ideal that is creativity; is Tom’s innate desire genuine, in that he really wants to destroy the mouse, or is it about the joy in the method by which he tries to terminate the lesser beast?

Innovation is inspired (three ‘i’s in a row, that’s excellent creativity) by the lack of ability to do anything else. At least in my case. As they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

I would say my creativity stems from the following life events, in no particular order:

Five: Kenny Dalglish.

Twenty-seven: death.

Eleven: skateboards.

Eight: Han Solo.

Three: Ava Gardner.

Thirty-four: shouldn’t have put those pants down the pub toilet.

Seven-and-a-half: milk and cream soda.

Twenty-eight: disability suite, plus a finger of Kit Kat.

Four: Wooton’s bum.

Twelve: Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Sixteen: beer.

Thirty-nine: drive to Mexico in a 1960s Ford F1-50 with my baby.

Fifteen: women.

Eighteen: first sand-in-every-orifice-of-my-body experience.

Twenty-Five: Badlands.

Nineteen-and-three-quarters: poo pinched on end of scissors.

Thirty-eight: stealing a graffiti book from a foreclosed bookstore in San Francisco.

Twenty-three: mud dumping on a Wednesday morning.

Thirty-two: heady night in Istanbul.

Nine: first ‘flustranation’ toward academics.

So, what has happened to creativity today?

There is a mixture of diverse creative talents doing some really interesting stuff, based on real, lived experiences, like photographer Mike Brodie’s images of life travelled across the US on freight trains, or Sean Mahoney’s autobiographical stand-up ‘12 Rounds’, or performance artist Marina Abramovic teaching her students how to drink a glass of water. Creativity that is inspired by actual, lived experience emotionally moves not only the individual from which it stems, but also the viewer or listener.

I can’t help but feel much creativity today is drawn from a two-dimensional screen via the internet, rather than by the makers going out into the world, living it, feeling it and reinterpreting it into their own work.

I've always associated creativity with lively discussion and debate, not people sat shifting between 17 open tabs on soundless screens with static headphones fused in their earholes like strange Apple-certified appendages

I’ve always associated creativity with lively discussion and debate, not people sat shifting between 17 open tabs on soundless screens with static headphones fused in their earholes like strange Apple-certified appendages. A monkey could cave their heads in with a bone and they wouldn’t even know it.

These are exciting times. There are many new creative avenues and platforms through which creativity can be expressed. What does worry me, however, is that there are not enough of us drawing from real experience, which is the ultimate pool of diversity. Anyone can Google "poo pinched on end of scissors", and get the same search results. But what is their story behind "poo pinched on end of scissors"? Their experience behind that image that makes it unique, that makes it their story, and therefore makes it resonate with others?

I was lucky to have a creative ally, my best friend, my Tonto, Matt, from a very early age. We pushed each other and tested each other and went on an adventure, went out of our way to find uncomfortable situations, a bit like Tom. Does he really want to kill the mouse? Or is it all about the joy within the struggle, that makes you want to create over and over again?

When I was six, I went to see what I thought was going to be a Tom and Jerry afternoon matinée. It turned out to be 2001: A Space Odyssey. My reaction, as would be expected, was acute speechlessness that lasted for a week. My first words, like Homer Simpson before me: "I can’t even say the word ‘titmouse’ without giggling like a schoolgirl."

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