Creative Cape Town Clusters

The Creative Cape Town Clusters provide a platform for networking between dynamic people in Cape Town’s creative industries, stimulating innovative partnerships for economic and social development. Collaboration is a strength in today’s business climate: the local industry will only grow through us openly sharing information, ideas, resources and energy.

Launched on 7 February 2008 with Ravi Naidoo as guest speaker, the clusters evolved to feature three or four speakers, each presenting for 10 minutes, followed by a networking session. 2008′s theme was “Re-imagining Cape Town” and creatives who responded to the idea included architects Mokena Makeka, Luyanda Mpahlwa, and Y Tsai; communication specialists Porky Hefer, Jonathan Cherry and Iain Harris, and acclaimed choreographer and performance artist Jay Pather.

The first four Creative Clusters took place at Woolworths House in Longmarket Street, where the talks were followed by drinks, snacks and energised conversations well into the evening. In 2009, creative clusters kicked off the year with a series of popular talks at the Design Indaba Expo, with industry leaders addressing the question: “Is Cape Town a Design City?” The clusters continued as an after-work drinks events as well as breakfast gatherings during 2010.

“In today’s creative economy, the real source of economic growth comes from the clustering and concentration of talented and productive people.” – Richard Florida, Who’s Your City?

Each Creative Clusters meeting has had its own distinct feel, with a selection of Cape Town’s top creatives sparking the evenings’ though-provoking conversations. Here’s more about each one:

Launch event: 7 February 2008: Ravi Naidoo
The Creative Clusters launched with a bang, with hundreds of creatives attending the inaugural event. Local design evangelist Ravi Naidoo of Interactive Africa and Design Indaba fame reminded Capetonians what a wealth of talent we have in the city with a mind-blowing presentation he’d been showing at international events.

Re-imagining Cape Town 2008: 12 June: Porky Hefer, Rashid Lombard, Gert Bormans, Y Tsai
The second Creative Clusters event saw some dramatic infrastructural re-imagining of the city, with avant-garde conceptualiser Porky Hefer of Animal Farm proposing that we turn our unfinished highways into Scalextric tracks and entrepreneur Gert Bormans suggesting we sink the same highway to reconnect the city, mountain and sea. espAfrika’s Rashid Lombard spoke about his dreams for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival – already a massive event on the city’s calendar. Finally, award-winning multidisciplinary designer Y Tsai spoke about his solutions for economical city living.

Re-imagining Cape Town 2008: 28 August: Luyanda Mpahlwa, Jonathan Cherry, Iain Harris, Chris Ledochowski
The third Creative Cluster was ultimately a re-imagining of the use of space. Luyanda Mpahlwa of MMA Architects combined architecture and activism in his discussion of design solutions for low-cost housing. Jonathan Cherry of innovative communications agency Cherryflava Media asked attendees to re-imagine the city as a playground, using new mobile and other technologies to make our surroundings intriguingly interactive. Iain Harris of Coffeebeans Routes suggested that cultural expression as a tourism commodity could help people improve their situations, even in the least scenic parts of our city. The event also included a promotion of Chris Ledochowski’s book, Cape Flats Details, documenting 25 years of his photographic work in this distinctively Cape Town area.

Re-imagining Cape Town 2008: 13 November: Erika Elk, Mokena Makeka, Jay Pather, Andrew Boraine
The final Creative Cluster of 2008 was a cross-industry celebration of exciting initiatives, with speakers from the craft, architecture, performance art and city management sectors. Erika Elk of the Cape Craft & Design Institute discussed re-imagining craft economically and artistically, while influential choreographer Jay Pather spoke about the transformative power of site-specific dance performances. Mokena Makeka revealed that the redesign of the Cape Town Station included a re-imaging of the terminal as a creative space, with areas for performance and creative commerce. Finally, Andrew Boraine, CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, introduced the Central City Development Strategy: a ten-year plan to develop the Central City as a leading centre for knowledge, innovation, creativity and culture in Africa and the South.

Is Cape Town a Design City?: Design Indaba: February 2009
During the Design Indaba Expo, the Creative Cluster concept became the theme for the Creative Cape Town stand, with eighteen speakers responding to the topic “Is Cape Town a Design City?” The stand, designed by Y Tsai, was a rectangular listening space echoing storytelling under trees. Highlights included District Six Museum’s Tina Smith’s talk on local cultural resources; David Schmidt on Cape Town as the capital of cool; Catherine Stone, the City’s director of spatial planning and urban design, on planning space for creativity; Alistair King of King James on making a creative bubble; Nick Ferguson of Indigo Properties on the role of property developers in creating clusters and Alastair Rendall of ARG Design on the integrated rapid transit (IRT) system.

This fascinating series of talks is available to view on Creative Cape Town’s YouTube channel.

Creative Cluster breakfasts
To meet the demand for networking and information sharing, Creative Cape Town started monthly breakfasts for small groups of creatives. The idea is to invite people from three creative companies at a time and give them the space to network with other creatives from divergent sectors.

The first breakfast was held early in 2010 at Birds Café in Bree Street and many more have been held since, each with plenty of idea sharing over good coffee. Companies have often found themselves staying on longer to take opportunities discussed forward.

Out of one of these breakfasts, the need for a Cape Town network for designers surfaced. This led to the establishment of the Cape Town Design Network and over 2010 a series of monthly events profiling designers took place in various venues. These events used the clusters format and were branded as the Cape Town Design Network. From late 2010 the network became a reality when a committee was established. It now runs its own forums – see

From 2011, the Creative Cape Town Clusters programme has been largely on hold with the preparations for World Design Capital 2014 bid and the development of The Fringe. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for information on upcoming Creative Cape Town Clusters.

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