the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
I suppose the best place to start is, ‘Once upon a time…’
From our earliest years, these four words have been used to herald the start of a magical or otherwise unimaginable tale. A fiction. A dream. Something or someone just out of reach.
When parents or teachers told us to “use our imagination” it was usually as a distraction tactic or way of avoiding the awkward and inconvenient matter of reality. Me, I’ve always had what is often referred to as an overactive imagination. Apparently, that was inconvenient too.
What I only learnt later in life was how little I knew about the reality of imagination. I’ve read Chaucer, studied Einstein and listened to Lennon and they all had their own ideas when it came to the subject. Imagination is what makes my answer different to yours or any others. It is anything, everything, and nothing all at once. It is immensely powerful and, like most things, potentially dangerous.
Imagination lets us escape from the world around us, but it also gives us the opportunity to explore, challenge, change, question, learn and teach that same world.
2021 was a year that could easily have stifled all forms of creativity and inquisitive thought, however, across borders, faiths, industries and yes, social platforms, we have found new ways to express ourselves. Faced with the global pandemic, climate change, politics, and social movements we are being forced to re-imagine the lives that we took for granted and look for more innovative, sustainable, responsible, and kind ways to interact with the world and each other.
Whilst no-one could have imagined XR overrunning cities, BLM becoming a recognised political party, The Turner Prize naming only collectives as finalists, designers and attendees at The Met Gala choosing to take their stand and speak out about inequality, feminism, identity, heritage, animal rights, sexuality, diversity, and the freedom to do so and the US Capitol being overrun, few of us would equally have imagined the stories of hope and love that emerged. The inspirational spirit of the NHS, the awareness built around mental health issues and concerns of all kinds, the appreciation for creatives and small business owners across the country and the smallest gestures of gratitude shown each and every day as we have all experienced the effects of our new normal.
While we were all so busy, busy growing up, busy becoming what we thought that we should be, busy fitting in, busy chasing the next BIG moment that we forgot everything else.
We lost something, somewhere along the way and it took the world being in turmoil and a nine-year-old girl to remind me of it. It wasn’t an earth-shattering moment, but a simple conversation which I doubt will have registered with her, however, as I sat with my niece asking her to tell me about her life, she broke everything down to simplicity. To her, differences and imperfections are badges of honour. To her, my Dickensian street urchin appearance and mental health issues are not things that make me an embarrassment but are simply traits that make me, me. She is inspired by diversity, courage, and strength. She asks questions, demands answers and responds with more insight and grace than anyone that I’ve ever encountered over my 15+ years in the media industry. If I could have imagined our future, I would never in my wildest imagination have imagined her.
These days, we must get on with the business of re-imagining the world. Hopefully, we can put a little magic back into it.