Day 2: the economic downturn and the costs of the machinery


Comments on yesterday’s post  focussed on the machinery we have built – and what it costs, its cost effectiveness and general usefulness now.

I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more. 

David Attenborough yesteday

And when we come to look at the opportunities presented by the recession, it is worth looking at the fitness for purpose of our current machinery in our changing world.

NESTA has called for innovation in the public sector, to cut costs and find innovative ways of delivering public services and suggests involving more ‘players’, parcelling up services to social enterprises for example.

We  have the great advantage in the arts now of having a developed infrastructure, many skilled professionals (some of these are volunteers) and venues as part  of our machinery nowadays.  We also now are able to engage collectively as the arts community and connect through networks in new ways through technology.  So, if we wanted to look at reducing the amount of machinery, we are in a good place to start. We could do things differently, moving more of the support and services to groups, venues and local agencies.  In the arts and creative industries, many of us are the pebbles not boulders – small and agile – that we need to be to successful in a digital Britain (Charles Leadbetter’s response to Digital Britain).

But machinery, and structures, are only there to support delivery of priorities.  And in, out and through the recession, we are re-evaluating priorities.  On the one hand, going back to basics, core values and on the other, backing winners and dropping losers.

If you had to choose 3 priorities for support in the arts and creative industries which would see us through the recession, what would they be?

Lets assume that the Government deals with the critical policy interventions identified in Digital Britain in terms of broadband, rights and PSB.

My 3 elements would be:

1. supporting artists for all the great things they contribute

2. ensuring a network of venues, creative hubs which create the conditions and connections for creative experiences

3. crowding in investment and support to back the games industry, which has the potential for high economic growth

The current recession offers an opportunity for us to review our priorities in the arts and creative industries.  Many people, audiences and participants, have less money and there is less public sector subsidy available for the arts and culture.

This is a time when the role of artists and arts are invaluable, both in intrinsic and instrumental dimensions;  making sense of the changing world, transcending the mundane, contributing towards social and community cohesion.


This is also a time when, to attack recession and achieve economic growth, picking winners in the creative industries is a good idea.


To deliver priorities such as 1 and 2 -in the context of less public susbsidy.  we would want to get more cash out of the machinery to support good quality raw materials, processes and products.


 And what would we need our intermediaries to do?



1.    In  supporting artists, providing financial support and advocating the role and value of the artist and art in society


2.     Connecting artists with parts of the public sector where they can make a major contribution, through social services for example


3.     Supporting a network of creative hubs, venues which are enabling spaces


4.     Championing sectors and making interventions which have the potential for high growth and crowd in investment around these – videogames and interactive technology (NESTA reports UK and Scotland)



1 comment
  1. I believe intermediaries need to be more flexible, relying more than we have done in the past on open networks to create and present programmes, share resources and innovate. At the centre of this argument, well rehearsed by many, is the fact that it is not possible for one institution to have all the knowledge, skills or relationships in any field and more. This is the only way the ‘machinery’ will be able to tackle 1-4 above.

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