Our Esperanto: Thinking laterally with the legends

Creativity is the universal language we all find ourselves fluent in. Creativebrief's David Sanger on the value of inspiration outside of the industry.

In my first job for a publishing house I was made to attend author talks. It seems churlish to admit but at first I was far from keen. It had something to do with my role essentially being photocopying based. I couldn’t see the benefit in hearing someone talk about their book – be it about the murky histories of West End hotels during the Blitz, or the evolution of protest music. Whereas if someone had come in to talk about the best ways to photocopy – well, now you’re talking.   

Yet once I was in the room it took me about four seconds to realise what the benefit of these talks was. Hearing authors talk about their chosen subjects; their chosen passions, was a gift. It wouldn’t improve my photocopying – to be fair nothing could, I was pretty talented – but seeing how someone had been inspired and in turn sought to make their mark on the world was far more valuable. When at first I assumed I’d find such talks incompatible; incomprehensible even, I left hearing something that clearly spoke my language. And more clearly than I’d heard it before.

This got me thinking about what connects us all. This common language that links people through experience; one that meant I wasn’t entirely lost when I moved from the publishing industry to this one. It got me thinking about Esperanto – the 19th Century effort by L. L. Zamenhof to create one language people would use the world over. Zamenhof’s intention was to ease the “misery caused by language division”. He saw language as separating “the human family” into a group of enemies. However good his intentions, Zamenhof failed. That’s not to say Esperanto isn’t without its enthusiasts. But it’s no more a world language than Klingon.

Amongst Esperanto’s backers was one JRR Tolkien, a linguist as well as an author, who’d experienced the divisions Zamenhof spoke of serving in the First World War. In trying to explain its ultimate failure, Tolkien said how Esperanto was among those languages that were “far deader than ancient, unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends.” Languages could carry on the tales of legends, but as Tolkien saw it – the legends also kept the language going; kept it universal as it was employed to share the stories of great men and women, regardless of borders.  

This was why all those years ago I found my opinion regarding those talks changing. The language the authors spoke – that wish to create something out of engaging a passion – it was something I could relate to. Several years, and many photocopies, later and I find myself helping organise BITE LIVE – Creativebrief’s biggest event of the year – and at the heart of things is that same language.  

Speaking at the event is Tempest Two – two lifelong friends who made a pub-orientated pact to row the Atlantic. (We’ve all been there). The only difference is that they stuck to it and rowed 3000 miles, successfully landing in Barbados. Yet we find ourselves able to understand their risks, their drive, ultimately their success. This is the reason they count Nike, Spotify and Airbnb among their clients.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of The Southbank Centre for over ten years, will be sharing her experiences with diversity and why gender equality is taking so long to achieve. There’s not a person in the room who’ll listen to her talk and not understand what she has to say.

Furthermore, there’s value in taking this kind of inspiration – that from outside of our industry. It has the ability to make a greater impact – to hit a far clearer note when striking its tuning fork against our minds.

Creativity is the universal language we all find ourselves fluent in. Whether we have a catalogue of campaigns behind us, or are still in our photocopying phase; whether we’re racking up the successes, or struggling to move past the failures.

But unlike Esperanto, this language has its legends. In and outside of the industry we find these great men and women.


Last updated 21 January 2022