3 lessons from Cannes on how to improve D&I in the creative sector

3 lessons from Cannes on how to improve D&I in the creative sector

How access and opportunity can help transform the age old industry issue of diversity and inclusion at Cannes.

We say this often—Inclusion is as important as Diversity when we talk about D&I.

However, for this piece I will lead with a quote from activist, entrepreneur and, in his words, Human, Cephas Williams: "Diversity is inviting people to the party and inclusion is allowing them to dance, and I take it a step further and say, real inclusion is not just allowing people to dance, its providing people the platform to play the music they want to dance to… and even further to that, creating the ecosystems for us to create our own parties."

That brilliantly sums up my experience at Cannes. 

An opportunity afforded to me that was fully sponsored by Cephas Williams, when he set himself the task of paying for 6 Black creatives to go to Cannes.

Now I know this piece seems as if it is coming late, but bear with me, as I feel like the past 4 weeks post-Cannes has been as impactful as the experience in Cannes itself.

And it didn’t just begin in Cannes, it started with an interview process where I was able to meet a plethora of Black creatives, like me, in which we had conversations, made friends and shared our experiences.

Lesson 1: There are more Black creatives than you think

We continuously push a narrative that diverse hires are hard hires because there aren’t many diverse people. We simply aren’t looking hard enough.

Furthermore, we aren’t tapping into the networks of the likes of Cephas Williams to find diverse talent. There are way more than the 4 or 5 we see at every industry event - I promise.

Two weeks before Cannes itself, I was then told that I had won the opportunity (lucky me) and boy was I not prepared for the life-changing, career-defining experience I had.

Now just to say, Cannes is exactly what it says on the can—a lot of rosé and parties.

With that in mind, sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go, it’s who you’re with. Just from watching the different social posts and stories from my colleagues in Cannes, and comparing to my experience – they were complete opposites. The only way I could explain the Cannes I saw was unapologetically and fabulously Black.

I met with Black creatives from all over the world.

I spoke with allies pushing for more diversity in the industry.

I had lunch with the likes of Coodie, the creator of Kanye West's Jeen-Yuhs Netflix documentary, and had meaningful conversations about the Black experience within the industry.

I made new friends and family dancing the night away to Kendrick Lamar and Nas. It was the first time in my career I was surrounded by my peers, and I didn’t feel like the odd one out.

Lesson 2: Opportunity after opportunity

Sometimes affording opportunities to your more junior team, or to your diverse team members, means you may just divide and conquer all the different opportunities and connections that Cannes affords. 

It may seem on the surface like the same faces and also super senior, but there is a subculture of young, diverse and hungry talent looking to do some incredible game-changing work.

But, the experience that Cephas offered didn’t just stop at Cannes. 

We all received a one-year Soho House Membership born out of Cephas and his teams' want to sustain the opportunities and space for Black creatives to connect and network.

I personally have also had the pleasure to be able to call on Cephas post-Cannes for mentorship, advice and support on being more confident in myself and my role.

Lesson 3: Share the stage

For those of us, like me, who have the pleasure of receiving opportunities within the industry like writing articles and sitting on panels and even going to Cannes, if I’ve learnt anything from it all, you don’t close the door to other diverse voices - you share the stage.

And so, I asked my new Cannes creative family, the ones I shared my journey with, to write a few words on their experience and learnings of Cannes to share with Creative Moment.

Rakeem Russell, designer at Lucky Generals: "My key takeaways from my Cannes experience was to let go of all apprehensiveness by striving to be 100 percent yourself. Being honest in conversation and being honest and about your feelings allows you to connect with people much faster, and on a more human level."

Sinead Rose, charity founder and period poverty advocate: "This experience acted as a reaffirmation that I deserved to be part of this space that many, from my community, do not have access to. It was great to build meaningful connections whilst also being my authentic self. I was able to learn about how others have navigated their careers in the creative industry whilst also saying true to themselves."

Nadia Lamaani, painter and photographer: "Attending a talk gives you an advantage for several reasons. You gain insight and knowledge into the speaker’s world of thought and better yet, you can ask QUESTIONS!

Knowing that you can tap into the conversation, show your curiosity, and challenge the protocol is a wonderful way to initiate a connection. Doing so will allow you to share your thoughts and show that you are invested in who they are and how they think, as opposed to the surface level of their achievements and success."

Stephanie White, customer success manager at Evening Standard: "There is space! There is space for me as a black woman in the creative space. That my talent and life experience is vital to the arena, and I have every right to be seen and included."

And so back to me, Kim.

I would encourage as many industry execs as possible to check out and support Cephas Williams' next ambition to get 50 Black creatives to Cannes in 2023.

And to the next young, Black and brown creatives that get the chance to go to Cannes… show up, show out and share the moment when you’re back!

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