Londoners are generating creative ideas for city

By Joshua Freeman, Londoner

If a group of progressive thinkers have their way, there’ll be more discussions in the Forest City about the most innovative and interesting things happening here.

Last week a group of more than 30 business people, artists and other creative thinkers met for the inaugural “city symposium” hosted at Kowork London at 350 Talbot St.

Designed to draw on three broad communities – ­academic and business, arts and culture, and non-profit and social innovation – the event aims to bring together a diverse group monthly to share the best of what’s happening in the city.

“It (city symposium) curates the most interesting of those sectors of society and celebrates what different people are doing,” said James Shelley, who came up with the idea. “We tend to become silos sometimes in the particular areas of society that we resonate with the most.”

He cited himself as an example.

“I’m very much invested in the non-profit social innovation world,” said Shelley, a social worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association and a fitness instructor. “I’m ­personally not well connected with the arts and culture scene in London.”

But City Symposium would change that, connecting Shelley with others who could explain the most important arts events and happenings in the city.

Although the format is not set in stone, Shelley described it as something akin to a TED talk event, where innovative thinkers share their thoughts.

The idea is to have someone from each ‘pillar’ do a 15-minute presentation to inform the group, with time for questions at the end of each presentation. Those talks would then be followed by a social session where speakers and participants could build relationships and exchange ideas.

The first session held last week, was a brainstorming event to get feedback from possible participants in order to refine the concept and to discuss logistics.

“Everyone’s recognizing it would be a lot of work to pull off,” Shelley said. “We’re looking for a team of people who will be dedicated to making it happen in the first year.”

But even if the sessions themselves don’t produce any ‘hard results,’ Shelley said the process itself could be worthwhile.

“Even of nothing actually comes from it, the idea of getting a bunch of creative people in a room talking has inherent value in and of itself,” Shelley said.

To look out for the next session or to get involved, visit

Twitter: @JoshatLondoner

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