It was a touching moment when Professor Alan Livingston took his place on the rostrum at the Design Council last week. The out-going principal of University College Falmouth was treated to a surprise gathering of the great and the good to honour his huge contribution to the college over 22 years – and to Preston Polytechnic (now the University of Central Lancashire) previously.
But this was no retirement party. Livingston has relinquished his hold on the college he has taken to greatness, but, though Belfast-born, he remains an activist for the county he now calls home.
This was the first of a series of events, planned by Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell, to relate stories of ‘creativity and inspiration’. The first recipient of a This is Your Life-style book, Livingston was being acknowledged by The Sorrell Foundation and his peers as a creative leader.
As his story unfolds, the traits of creative leadership are revealed. Long-term goals, rather than short-term gain, are motivators, while continuity of tenure serves to achieve them. Insistence on quality, negotiating skills and the willingness to collaborate are givens, as are risk-taking, networking and political astuteness.
But amid this insistence on passion, determination and commitment is the ability to inspire others, which sets Livingston – a graphic designer – apart. Falmouth students exude creative quality, but if you talk to UCF graduates or teachers, Livingston is key to their success. His achievements are as much on a personal level as in the politically charged environment of design education at which he patently excels.
Creative leadership is what he takes with him as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly prepare for Designs of the Time initiatives next year. With people of his calibre on the ground, Cornwall will make best use of Dott. Design, meanwhile, gets to experience creative leadership in action – as valuable a model to us as the legacy Livingston bequeaths on UCF and Cornwall.