Tag Archives: creative economy


The process of reduction of 20th century cultural institutions and dismantling of the machinery intensified last week with the publication of the McCarthy report in Ireland declaring open season on challenges to the cultural public sector. Two weeks ago the Arts Council of England announced its proposals to cut 131 staff.  Last week  DCMS forewarned of  the £100m ‘black hole’ in its budget likely to result in mothballing of various capital projects including  Tate Modern, British Museum and BFI. “Let the elite’s building funds dry up. Outside, cultural Britain is flourishingwrote Simons Jenkins in the Guardian.    Comments on the piece by that well known group of Guardian readers – educated, cultured, liberal, leftie etc – more or less all agreed with him.

Over in Ireland the ‘An Bord Snip’ report by Colm McCarthy, signalled the lancing of the unaffordable public sector in Ireland.  McCarthy is looking for savings of some €5.3bn across the board and in the arts and creative industries this includes the abolishment of the Irish Film Board and Culture Ireland as well as reductions in the amount of funding to the Arts Council.  There is also a recommendation to consider the abolishment of the Department of Arts Sports and Tourism in the context of severe reductions in the funding and activities of that Department and as a means to generate additional savings in the cost of Government administration.

Of course the bluntness of the proposals has been greeted by an outcry from those in the arts and creative industries.  At the opening of the new Druid Theatre in Galway Festival last week, Gary Hynes, director of Druid Theatre and Pat Moylan, Chair of the Arts Council spoke up for the arts and the cultural and economic value they generate.  In all the hullaballoo, the cause most worth fighting for is having a Culture Minister at the Cabinet table.  Its less about the money, more about the influence.

No one can be unrealistic about the current economic crisis and the need to reduce public expenditure.  We need to ensure that we preserve the artistic capability to survive the recession. But this does not mean retaining the status quo, either in terms of the arts we subsidise or in terms of the machinery and organisations we retain.

The world has changed with the global economic crisis and climate change.  And is changing fast with the development of the internet.  20th century arts and culture can no longer be regarded as the only creative industries worthy of support.  The creative industries as a sector  includes interactive and digital media and this is where there is the greatest potential for growth, innovation and cultural, social and economic benefit.  Digital media and internet communication has already inspired innovative Iphone Apps, games, web drama and other open source art, photography and music products, services and artefacts.  The platforms encourage personalised experiences and collaboration which are not dependent on travelling to a city to an event at a particular time, which may be free and which are close to carbon neutral.  Interactive games is a sector where the UK and Scotland in particular is a global leader and where public support can deliver significant economic impact.

The internet has also revolutionised the way we can operate businesses – including the cultural agencies which are currently under threat. Many of the costs associated with running these agencies accrue from managing the complex administration systems required pre today’s technological capabilities.

We need to reduce the number, size and cost of public agencies and need to make sure that these public agencies operate expertly, swiftly and efficiently to make strategic interventions across the arts and creative industries, working in partnership with economic agencies.  This is what is proposed for Creative Scotland.

We need to support artists, to nurture talent and to retain core cultural organisations, as centres of excellence in an art form, like national theatres, or as regional creative hubs, providing neutral enabling spaces for creative experiences.  The agencies should delegate or contract out activity and programmes to them instead of running them themselves. We need to get as much of the resources as possible into the arts and creative experiences and reduce the cost of the machinery to do this.

We will need to lose many workers in the arts and culture.  Artists, actors, musicians, writers, dancers, craftspeople, technicians, designers, directors are by nature both freelance and adaptive.  The salaried staff who will be made redundant as the cultural machinery is dismantled are a mixed bag of professionals.  Most of them, administrators, marketers, managers, are passionate about the arts and have a creative and positive approach to work.  While some will stay employed, society could benefit from their skills in other ways.  Most have transferable skills could improve the performance of many other public and private organisations with their creativity and enthusiasm.  Most could also contribute towards creative experiences in their own communities through volunteering in schools and community organisations, as we can presume less and less professional community arts activity and more need to get involved with schools   Many could mentor others. A benefit of a shrinking economy could be a higher valuing of non professionalised arts activities.

Some should transfer their skills to the new creative industries but working not for the ‘boulder’ organisations of the 20th century but as ‘pebbles’, small and independent (as defined by Charles Leadbetter).  Those people are the more entrepreneurial types. Some few will be lucky enough to be made redundant by the public sector and could use their redundancy pay to set up and some are fortunate enough to be supported by independent means.  Others need support in setting up as a small enterprise.  The Arts Council of England and the New Deal of the Mind published last week a report Do it yourself: cultural and creative self-employment in hard times which makes the case for DPW to set up a success to the Enterprise Allowance Scheme of the 80s which supported the establishment of a very significant body of sustainable creative industries.  That’s just what we need now, for many of our young artists and creative practitioners and also for the not so young cultural support worker.

And what of the new streamlined public agencies?  We need the best leaders and creative professionals in these agencies, experts in the arts, culture and creative industries.  There used to be a tradition (and still is in some rare examples) where our top creative people transferred in and out of the cultural agencies and to and from the coalface as artists or entrepreneurs.  We should have fixed term contracts in these agencies just as we do for boards and for artistic directors.

The dismantling of 20th century cultural machinery is inevitable but lets get the best of benefits from our creative workers in new settings.



A step forward has been taken to embed a 360 ° system of support for Scotland’s creative industries with the publication of the report from the Creative Industries Partnership Group. The creative industries have an economic, social and cultural value for Scotland and so it makes sense that public agencies work together across the spectrum to provide specialist support across the whole of the creative industries.

The Creative Industries Framework Agreement Implementation Group (“CIFAIG”), jointly chaired by the Scottish Government and COSLA has put some further flesh on the bones of the February  Core Script outlining roles and responsibilities of the agencies which was agreed in February.

The recommendations of CIFAIG are based on the achievement of the following ambition: that Scotland becomes recognised as one of the world’s most creative nations – one that attracts, develops and retains talent, where the arts and the creative industries are supported and celebrated and their economic contribution fully captured.

CIFAIG recognised that to achieve the above ambition an innovative structure for supporting and developing the creative industries is required, led by the Scottish Government, with Creative Scotland the principal co-ordinator for action.  This structure has to be more than the introduction of a credible and properly empowered Creative Scotland. It must also involve the other parties to the Framework Agreement being prepared to adapt their existing processes and procedures to the achievement of the collective ambition. As importantly, it has to involve and engage practitioners in a manner and at a level that ensures that their contribution is both significant and effective.

The Agreement describes in some more detail how the specific agencies will work together and further articulates the role for Creative Scotland in leading the coordination of the Group and providing research and intelligence and being a broker, networker and champion.

The Framework Agreement is a step forward towards embedding a 360° system of support for Scotland’ s creative industries.  The creative industries have an economic, social and cultural value for Scotland and so it makes sense that public agencies work together across the spectrum to provide specialist support across the whole of the creative industries.  All teams need a leader and the Agreement sets out the priority roles for Creative Scotland in leading the coordination of activity through providing intelligence, gathered through research and through strong networking across the 13 sectors and relevant partners.

The devil is in the detail though and the Agreement does not provide the route map for creative entrepreneurs and enterprises recommended last year.  Creative Scotland will need “to provide intelligence and advice about the workings of the sector, including commercial opportunities, talent, market development, structural issues and dependencies” across the creative industries this year to facilitate this.

There is still a way to go but progress will best be made by actions and by actors.  Creative Scotland needs the leaders in place who can command authority and coordinate with credibility across the spectrum.  And Scottish Enterprise needs to signpost its commitments through its promise to have a clearly designated senior person for the creative industries.  And maybe its time to signpost ‘creative industries’ as a sector on the SE website instead of digital markets.


We need to reorganise our systems and structures for cultural support so that we can

·       support success across the whole creative sector  (where it is needed and strategically focussed)

·        maximise the influence, contribution of arts and creative sectors in other spheres, economic, social, educational, local and international

·       benefit from the skills and cultural infrastructure we have

·       benefit from changes in communication through digital media

·       be fast enough now that the pace of everything has changed

We need to re-engineer our systems and structures for the 21st century and move towards a model based on networks and not layers.  We need to reduce machinery, the costs of it and move towards lighter, more transparent, fleeter, more flexible structure and systems.  We need to collaborate on providing a network of support.

Every country, nation, region and locale has its own priorities, strengths and infrastructure and  structures and systems we design and operate need to be fit for purpose in each case.

But there is a simple approach, a  menu of what we need to fit these times that starts with both  artists and government policy.

That would include (and this is not a hierarchical list – needs a drawing of spheres and connections here)

Clear government policies, primarily cultural policy but also economic and social, supported by government interventions including fiscal policy

Intermediate strategic agency (ies) working across all spheres

A Funding system – we need a funding system not necessarily a funding body

Infrastructure – arts and venues, other players


So what should that intermediate strategic agency look like?

Yesterday I wrote about the generic arts council Model, the way in which that functions is different in England, Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as each of these countries has its own particular economic, political, social and cultural priorities.  There are other cultural strategic agencies in the mix here, including film, craft and design councils and also other public agencies in enterprise, education, international affairs and local government.

In Scotland, where we have been considering this since devolution, we have a particular set of circumstances including being a small country with big national cultural ambitions  and  having strong capacity, capability in local authorities and arts organisations.   The priority for the Scottish Government  “To focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth”.  The intermediarycultural public sector agencies should support Scotland’s success in the creative economy.

The approach here is to create a single intermediate strategic agency –Creative Scotland.

Ewan Brown, Chair of Creative Scotland 2009, writes in today’s Herald:

·       It will support, develop and promote a much wider range of creativity than the SAC and Scottish Screen have been able to. From advertising, through music, publishing, fashion and architecture to digital media, Creative Scotland will create more opportunities for more individuals, businesses and groups than ever before

·       as a single agency, it will be more efficient, more powerful and more influential

·       it has the remit to push the creative industries to the forefront of Scotland’s economic development

The Scottish solution to the international conundrum has the potential to be a powerful new model but not one that can be applied everywhere.


The House of Lords debated internet piracy on Thursday led by the theatrical peer, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber , who performed with a degree of artistic licence to make important points.  His speech,  covered in the media, made important points but it  reflects neither the whole picture nor the debate in the Chamber.(Hansard report here)  And the ‘alarming’ figures he quoted about loss of revenues and jobs need to be seen in a wider context.

The Lords were largely discussing the Digital Britain report and the importance of establishing a digital rights agency – to protect creative content and intellectual property and this is surely an essential element to support the UK’s success in the creative industries.

Sir Andrew is concerned to protect artists and producers of music and films published and created before digtial technology revolutionised everything. He is  quoted: 

The question that occurs to me is whether in ten years’ time Britain will be a place from which, say, the Beatles could have emerged? Will Britain be a fertile environment for all creative talent? Will Britain be a place where music, TV, film, games and publishing companies are sufficiently healthy to invest in British creative talent and take it to the rest of the world?

“No, not when there are no longer shops selling physical products and when the internet has become a sort of Somalia of unregulated theft and piracy   …..

A digital rights agency is required to protect our creative content.

But our creative content, creative business models and creative experiences have changed because of the internet.

New business models are being invented which are collaborative and commercial – notably Spotify where we can listen to music for free and artists still get paid.

Sir Andrew also declared that  “Britain’s creative industries are not content providers for broadband.”

 Indeed they are not.  The convergence of content and technology has created the right conditions for the UK’s, particularly Scotland’s, talented games companies to become one of the highest growth areas of the creative economy.  At the end of 2008, the sales of games overtook music and DVDs for the first time.    Video games are projected to grow at a rate of 10.3%pa compared to 6.6% for all media and entertainment markets (NESTA)

So, while Sir Andrew quotes losses of £1.2bn and 30,ooo jobs in film and music because of piracy (or free), this needs to be seen in the context of the forecasted 9% growth in  UK Gross Value Added (GVA) over the next five years,estimated by NESTA at £85bn and 185,000 new jobs .




 Dundee Contemporary Arts celebrates its 10th birthday this weekend.

A buzzing social and creative centre, DCA is a cultural centre for the 21st century. It hosts art and artists, presents cutting edge contemporary visual art and cinema, engages audiences, children and young people, sells contemporary design and crafts, and of course has the all important great coffee. It was created in a partnership between Dundee City Council,  Duncan of Jordanstone, Scottish Arts Council,  Dundee Printmakers and more.

The birthday celebrations yesterday included a think tank where directors of UK cultural centres and others chewed over current and future challenges for the success of cultural centres and, in particular how the value of the cultural centre is expressed and articulated.

Clive Gillman, DCA’s director expressed a concern that there has not been enough articulation and advocacy for the cultural as opposed to the economic or social value of DCA and others.  This has been the case recently as public policy has been focussed on the creative economy and while policy is developing and structures changing.  But this doesn’t change the essential value of the cultural centre as a place for creative experiences, whether collaborative or curated.

At the civic reception, local politicians celebrated on the success of DCA and there was little civic boosterism from the city of jam and jute.  The deputy lord provost reflected on the City’s scepticism about DCA – changed after an economic impact study demonstrated the value to the City, and further dissipated after the year on year high attendance figures. He proudly spoke of DCA’s success in delivering cutting edge art.

So the economic argument matters.

This doesn’t dilute the core cultural values of DCA.  These are about art and engagement, about providing the environment in which artists create and audiences experience.  And there is a need to articulate this.