IN COLLABORATION WITH ELLIE MORAG.
Briana Pedago is a freelance Creative Director and Founder of Edinburgh Students Arts Festival (ESAF), and has recently been appointed as Executive Director of Creative Edinburgh. She's also Vice Chair at The Young Women's Movement Scotland, and a speaker at Creative Mornings Edinburgh - amongst other ventures. We caught up with her to chat creativity, mixing disciplines, and moving to Edinburgh.
On moving to Edinburgh.
I came to Edinburgh for University in 2010, as I'd had a strong desire to live abroad. My family is very international and each of them grew up in lots of different countries. Although I’ve travelled, I was the only one who hadn’t lived anywhere else.
I was raised in Washington DC and was very into politics, geography, the planet, languages and culture. I also felt I was creative and wanted to go to art school - but my family pretty much said no. My art teachers also didn’t want to endorse my portfolio as they thought I should be doing something else. I was intrigued by politics and countries, so looked into English Universities as I loved London, but felt the system was too specialised. Then I looked at Scotland and thought Edinburgh was perfect.
On mixing disciplines and becoming a Creative Director.
In 2014 I was elected president of Edinburgh University Students Association. That year really gave me the scope and space to set up my first business; the Edinburgh Students Arts Festival (ESAF). That idea grew after talking to friends, and was an outlet - I felt creatively stifled during University and wanted an ‘in’ to the arts and creative industries. ESAF was a social enterprise; it focused on sustainability, development and reinvesting back into the community.
I ran ESAF for three and a half years. While I was doing that, and after my year as EUSA president, I started freelancing. My first creative role was for Creative Edinburgh - they were planning their fourth birthday and Janine (then Director) needed some help event coordinating.
What transpired after that was a theme in the freelance work I was doing. Each of my roles seemed to eclipse entrepreneurship, creativity, start-ups and sustainable development in the creative industries. Running a festival and freelancing gave me a taste for various parts of the industry; whether it was theatre, design and making, events, networks, network organisations or membership bodies.
I’ve always had my feet in the different worlds I cared about. But there's always been facets to what I do that didn’t really integrate. However, I’m now involved in a freelance project that ties all of my interests together. It's on the topic of Design Informatics, a project relating to data driven innovation in the creative industries and sustainable development in the arts.
On having a creative family.
My grandpa was involved in amateur theatre his whole life, my grandma was an English teacher, my mum a ballet dancer, and my dad was a really great illustrator. My parents always encouraged my own creativity; I went to dance and art camps from a young age, but back then I didn't realise how creative my family was. I don’t think they’d ever call themselves artists or creatives, but they inherently were. They just put their creative talents to the side as hobbies and passions. None of them ever did it professionally, apart from my grandma, but I was definitely surrounded by creativity and so I think that's where my creative passions stem from.
I believe that creativity is just the action of creating, and I think being creative is problem solving; creating something out of nothing and coming up with an idea.
On creativity and creative thinking.
I believe that creativity is just the action of creating, and I think being creative is problem solving; creating something out of nothing and coming up with an idea. It can be looking at anything from aesthetic colours to flavours. I love cooking - I’ve always loved cooking, and I find that creative.
Not everyone believes they're creative. I believe everyone is - it just looks different for everyone. I don’t want to sound like I’m downplaying people who have a craft and dedicate time to it, but I do think we’re all creative if we want to be.
When I was running ESAF, we wanted to help people realise their potential. That could be anything, and is why we made it open access and multidisciplinary. You didn’t have to be a student, you didn’t have to have qualifications. Some really great artistic practice and work came out of the festival; some people tested ideas of running a workshop, some by giving a talk and others by selling something they’d made.
When I try to pin down my creative practice I’d say whilst I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always been a person who’s loved to cook, I feel it’s always been my thinking that’s been creative.
Learning from creatives and taking space.
Creatives tend to be more attuned to giving themselves space as part of their working process. There are very few sectors of work that encourage taking time out to reflect and think. I try to remind myself that if I were to approach a task in the same way an artist or a creative person would, I would take that step back to give myself space and time away to work through problems as they arise. I’ve learned that from artists and creatives.
Edinburgh is such a special place. I find that Edinburgh has quite an introverted culture - maybe because of the weather and the long-lasting winters - but I think that’s really allowed the introvert in me to come out, breathe and be accepted in a way it wasn’t in the states. American culture is so extroverted and extra which can be exhausting. I find Edinburgh can be dark, stormy and moody, which just matches my mood sometimes.
Edinburgh is a small place where a lot of people are doing incredible things, whether it’s running their own business or creative practice. It feels like a really nurturing place to test ideas out and have people support you and be in a creative inspirational community. I love that about Edinburgh. It’s a really magical, unique, safe, special city.
You can do it all, you just can’t do it all at the same time. Give yourself space to learn and grow; go at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself to others. I’m so guilty of it and it’s hard, but comparing yourself to other people is so unhelpful and I think when we live in a society of comparison it makes us unhappy.
If you lose interest or passion or ambition for something let it go, because if you force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, you’re going to kill it. I’m still working this through; I put pressure on myself to be more consistent, to build something over time, and when I find myself losing interest I feel guilty. But it's just part of my creative process.
I think it’s about being less strict with yourself - sure you need to practice, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself for the outcome to look or be a certain way.
You can do it all, you just can’t do it all at the same time.
About Ellie Morag.
This conversation was delivered in partnership with photographer Ellie Morag, an Edinburgh based photographer represented by Crew Scotland. She specialises in lifestyle, street style and portraits. With a style that falls somewhere between documentary and portrait photography, she is inspired by movement, colour & narrative.