This project is the result of a two year collaboration between artist Amanda Jane Graham and the Hair & Beauty Industry Confederation of Ireland (HABIC). It was developed as part of SPARK, an artist in residence programme developed by Leitrim County Council's Arts Office and Local Enterprise Office to encourage collaboration between artists and conventional businesses. In 2021 it was one of nine projects supported by Creative Ireland as part of the Creative Communities Economic Action Fund.
Leitrim as a county is regarded as being culturally vibrant and remarkable, relative to its size, for its levels of activity and capacity across a wide range of artforms and cultural arenas. However, Leitrim also faces significant challenges. As a rural county with a small, dispersed population, it is essential that we foster a culture of creativity as a key component towards furthering the county’s social, cultural, and economic development.
For over a decade, Leitrim County Council’s Arts Office and Local Enterprise Office have facilitated artists to work with Leitrim based companies, providing platforms for creative collaboration, and exploring how creativity can impact positively on conventional business environments.
The Spark programme gives companies that are interested in promoting creativity within their organisation the opportunity to work with artists who are interested in exploring how their thinking, knowledge, and practice can have relevance and impact in different environments.
For artists, Spark provides the opportunity to undertake new and innovative collaborative work. Quite naturally, what the artist does is going to be acutely informed by the adopted environment, thus providing a greater interest and involvement in the work from staff and clients/customers, pointing to different, creative, and innovative paths and serving as a catalyst for new thinking.
This project with artist Amanda Jane Graham and the Hair And Beauty Industry Confederation (HABIC) represents one of the most successful collaborations to date. This is partially because HABIC’s CEO, Margaret O’Rourke Doherty, and Amanda – who was a hairdresser for many years before becoming a professional artist – share the same conviction and determination to shift our understanding and appreciation of the hairdressing profession. Just as Amanda recognises the value and importance of the support HABIC provides to the industry, Margaret equally recognises how the work that Amanda has developed can communicate and further HABIC’s agenda to different people in ways that other activities, projects, and reports cannot.
Spark is underpinned by a belief in the value of creativity throughout society. While this project is a uniquely creative endeavour and testament to everyone involved, for Leitrim County Council, it is an exemplar of how creativity in any environment, when supported, can have hugely important impacts on society, our economy, and all our lives.
Arts Officer, Leitrim County Council
The hairdressing industry is widely considered to be vibrant and creative, offering professionals an opportunity to express creativity through the medium of hair, while devising bespoke hairstyles for each customer. However, by definition, the hairdressing profession has not been formally considered part of the Creative Industries. Under Future Jobs Ireland, the development of a new Roadmap will define the creative industries in Ireland as occupations which utilise creativity as a means to deliver commercial success and employment.1 Ireland’s Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation (HABIC) pose the question: Does society recognise and value the creativity of hairdressing?
The mission of HABIC is to ensure that the industry is truly valued for its significant economic and labour market impact, to have the entrepreneurial and creative nature of the industry valued, and the reputation of the industry held in high esteem.2 In short, HABIC are committed to driving industry standards, job creation and professional development, along with economic and reputational growth for our industry at a national level.
In Ireland, the hair and beauty sector employs 25800 people across 9300 enterprises and is worth €1.4 billion in services.3 Yet, there has wrongly been a stigma placed on the industry, which has undermined and impacted its progression and growth, and often devalued the profession. To date, there has been little emphasis placed on the origin and impact of this historical stigma; however, the rise and fall of the profession is considered, documented, and contextualised through Amanda Jane Graham’s recent project and exhibition, The Coiffured.
Some believe that society places higher value on careers that require third level qualifications, than on vocational professions like hairdressing or barbering. The stereotype of ‘if you’re not good in school, you can be a hairdresser’ undermines the intelligence, creativity, and mastery of skills required in hairdressing.4 This belief fails to acknowledge the underling scientific knowledge, technical skills, ongoing upskilling, or the significant emotional intelligence required to work as part of a team and to make clients look and feel good. Professionals make the mastery of the craft look easy. This was clearly demonstrated through the pandemic and the outpour of appreciation for the hairdressing community as restrictions were lifted. We ask you to reframe the narrative, to ensure society values and respects the profession as it truly deserves.
Margaret O’Rourke Doherty
About Creative Ireland
The Creative Ireland Programme is an ambitious, all-of-government, culture and wellbeing programme that inspires and transforms people, places, and communities through creativity. The programme is committed to the vision that every person in Ireland should have the opportunity to realise their full creative potential and is founded on the vision that Ireland is a country where creativity is at the centre of public policy. The Creative Ireland Programme commits to collaboration between central and local government, between culture and industry, and between artists and policy makers.
Local authorities are the lead agencies in local development. They play a key role across infrastructure, place-making, enterprise, culture, community development, tourism, and the environment. Working collaboratively, the ‘Creative Communities’ pillar in the Creative Ireland Programme seeks to harness the potential to deploy creativity as a strategy for wellbeing, social cohesion, and economic development.
The work of Culture and Creativity Teams in the delivery of local Culture and Creativity Strategies has shifted the recognition within local authorities of the role and value of creativity in relation to place-making, local enterprise, and the potential of the arts, culture, and creativity as a local policy instrument. In 2020 an interim review of Creative Communities recognised the success of the partnership in delivering across local authorities. However, it was noted that additional targeting of investment in relation to economic development was required.
In response, a pilot initiative was launched in 2022, titled the Creative Communities Economic Action Fund, which aims to support local authorities to develop the creative economy at local and regional level. Eight initiatives which could harness and demonstrate the value of culture and creativity in local economic development were grant aided. The scheme was an opportunity for local authorities to build on existing expertise, both creative and economic, within local authorities and partner organisations leading on regional enterprise and identify learnings that could strengthen the contribution of culture and creativity to local economic development.
Leitrim County Council were one of the successful local authorities under the scheme. Other initiatives supported across the country included animation clusters, immersive games development, the role of the design sector to wider industry, traditional typography skills development, and textile industries.
Commenting on the investment, Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said: “The creative economy has no single definition. It is an evolving concept which builds on the interplay between human creativity and intellectual property, knowledge, and technology. It is essential that new creative economic activities are nurtured and supported. The Creative Communities Economic Action Fund provides an impetus for partnerships and new creative opportunities throughout the country.”
All Regional Enterprise Plans up to 2024 highlight the creative industries, or sub-sectors within the creative industries, as integral to the economic viability of their region. The plans are based on a ‘bottom-up’ collaborative approach, involving development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices, Local Authorities, higher and further education bodies, and businesses. The plans address specific regional ecosystem gaps, and act on the strengths and opportunities unique to each region, adding value to and complementing the ongoing work of the individual enterprise agencies and development bodies in the region.
The Creative Ireland Programme is developing a Roadmap for the Digital Creative Industries in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in 2023. Building on the existing Audiovisual Action Plan, it will focus in particular on designbased, digital creative sectors. The roadmap aims to: grow creative industries output and employment through targeted supports; embed creativity across further and higher education; explore how Ireland’s enterprise support system and research frameworks can increase design innovation and innovation in the creative industries; and enable place-based approaches to the development of the creative industries.
Director, Creative Ireland Programme
Philip Delamere is Arts Officer and Creative Ireland Co-Ordinator with Leitrim County Council where he is responsible for devising and implementing policy, plans and programmes for arts development and the broader creative sector. As part of those roles he has developed, among other projects, the TRADE, LOCIS and SPARK artist in residence programmes and the Creative Frame professional development network.
Margaret O’Rourke Doherty is founding member and CEO of HABIC, the Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation (est. 2019). This fledgling industry body is working towards supporting and enhancing the continued development of the beauty and hair sector in Ireland. Margaret is also founder of Image Skillnet (est. 2017) – the dedicated network for supporting the Irish Beauty and Hair sector with subsided, tailored training. In addition, Margaret is Chairwoman of ISME (the Irish SME Association), and the Chair of the Consortium Steering Group for the National Hairdressing Apprenticeship.
Tania Banotti is the Director of the Creative Ireland Programme. She was Chief Executive of Screen Producers Ireland, the national association for TV, feature film and animation production companies in Ireland from 1998 before becoming the first Director of Theatre Forum, the representative body for theatre and the performing arts in 2003. She was one of the founders, and then Secretary of the National Campaign for the Arts for three years and worked as CEO of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners of Ireland (IAPI) the professional body for creative and media ad agencies from 2012 before joining the Creative Ireland Programme in 2018.