Community during Coronavirus – CreativeMornings/Cardiff

I’ve been a fan of Melin’s for some time. Ever since I landed back in Cardiff at the beginning of 2019, I’ve been religiously attending CreativeMornings/Cardiff, of which she is the current custodian. It’s a huge, international network of events, and Melin runs the Cardiff chapter with great energy and humour. I’ve spent many Friday mornings, blearily arriving at a lovely cafe or art space to wake myself up with great coffee, great company, and inspiring talks.

Melin, please introduce yourself, and what you do!

“I’m the host of CreativeMornings/Cardiff. CreativeMornings is the largest face-to-face community in the world. It’s a breakfast lecture series where we host a talk as well as creating this space for people to come in and meet each other. In Cardiff, we have an amazing community that is obviously not just made out of creatives. We are called CreativeMornings but you don’t have to be creative to be part of it. You just need to appreciate and value creativity. I guess that’s like the baseline and the reason that we get together.

We are also a bunch of people who like to share stories, and who like to listen to stories to get inspired. I’d like to think of us as a support system as well, especially considering that we are a very tight knit community in a small city. Over the years, I’ve realised that we’ve facilitated a lot of people to meet and collaborate, or discover new ideas, new people, which I absolutely love. So I really miss our face-to-face community, and being a part of this has just been incredible, so far.”

What’s been the primary impact of coronavirus on the community?

A hug from Melin is an important part of CM Cardiff!

“A lot of people in our community are freelancers, makers and creatives. So it impacted them economically. People who create and make things to sell are questioning themselves about whether this is the best time to carry on selling those sorts of products. So they’re asking themselves how to survive or how to pay their bills. They’ve lost a lot of work. So there’s a real a struggle for the creative industry. Especially for makers. But these people are incredibly talented, and I’ve already seen some people change their business. So, for example, they’re creating rainbows out of new materials and donating some of the profit to NHS”.

Film-maker makes a visual note.

There are those people who get ahead of things and managed to remodel their businesses. But some people in our community, unfortunately, had to stop doing what they are doing or completely depend on online sales. 

Main difference is that, for freelancers and creatives, those face to face meetings, or going to events and meeting like-minded people, was often how they found business. Now that’s out of question. 

But on the up side we’re all learning a lot about how much communities matters and we are being creative about how we support each other. On Instagram people are reposting their maker friends stuff, or talking about that person. One of our CreativeMornings/Cardiff team members lost their job, and she actually put that on Instagram, we all reposted it, and she got a couple of jobs out of it.

Maybe these are not big thing, but I think they matter.

I think the community feels are continuing online. It’s just a little bit more challenging. But I think that we’ve always had that in Cardiff. People are just lovely. Everyone is really ready to support each other, and we just keep on doing that”.

How are you planning to take such a physical meetup online?

“Yes, obviously our biggest thing is that it is usually face to face. But me and the team got together to see how we carry on from now, and we decided we’re still going to approach our speakers that we have on our wish list. Obviously it’s going to be online. Our first one is going to be a relaxed one where we’re just going to invite a speaker to just chat on Instagram live.

Christmas event at The Gate

So we plan to have more of a casual conversation than a talk. We want to warm ourselves up, rather than just go straight into a proper online “event”. The great thing about this is that we can actually approach anyone, anywhere in the world now. Previously we had all these worries about how we bring speakers to Cardiff, how do we afford to host them here. What would make that person from London or Essex get up and come here? Now we don’t have that limitation. 

Our aim is still to inspire and give hope to people. We don’t want to do something heavy hearted. We don’t want to leave people with heavy feelings. So we’ve really concentrated on people who have a lot of positive impact, who have hope and great messages in the things that they create.

We also introduced weekly newsletters as “virtual care packages” Mared is such a good writer, she has been putting these newsletters together with the team to spread positive and fun news from around the world as well us tips from us on work, health, and fitness. We’re aware that we may not be able to deliver events as timely and perfectly as before but we still want our community to know we are there for them”.

Note from NC – a week or so later, and they did just this – and it was great! I’m really looking forward to what they do next.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in maintaining and building these communities

“I think the most difficult thing is finance. It’’s because ours is a completely volunteer-run event. Nobody gets paid, and we also don’t charge for events. This means that we can only facilitate events that are as good as our sponsors. If we’ve got a good sponsor, that can allow us to have 150 free coffees, for example. But if we have an even bigger sponsor we can have a bigger event and maybe more giveaways. Or we can create more opportunities for our attendees. But now those aren’t really issues, and we’re not thinking about money. We’re thinking about what we can do as volunteers to create those opportunities.

What does the community need? What do they need to hear? Who do they need to see? Has Cardiff and the world heard of the magical things happening right here on our doorsteps?

And although we’re really invested in actually creating awareness about local stuff, we also include hard truths that maybe some people don’t want to know. So we are always trying to keep that level of sweet and sour. 

At Off Track, a cafe under Jacob’s Market

We’re not always giving them what they want. That’s a conscious decision, because it’s a creative community that we lead. Creative people are more prone to want to see people that are doing amazing, beautiful drawings, but we don’t want to just keep bringing the same type of people, and same ideas”.

And so what’s next? What will change for CM Cardiff, and for you?

“I’m quite excited to see the world after this and, and how it impacts our relationships. I think strong teams and strong communities will survive this. I believe in the people who are really supportive and helpful and caring, I think we are already seeing amazing examples. But I also hope we will learn to judge less. We rely on social media so much as a community that I also want to make people aware that whatever we are seeing is maybe not exactly what it is. We’ve got to remember that whatever we’re putting out there is a conscious decision, and people will respond to it in different ways. I hope people will have more tolerance for each other”.

What was really interesting to me about chatting to Melin was how as a group the CM Cardiff team decided not to just rush into the idea of just doing talks on Zoom, like everybody else. But, mainly, they’ve seen it as an opportunity to widen the scope of who they can attract as a speaker. The limitations of social distancing have in fact made some things, in fact, more possible than before…..


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