In this member post, Young Fabian member Kieron O’Connell summarises the debate at our creative industries event earlier this month and argues that policy makers should recognise better the heterogeneous nature of the creative industries.
On Tuesday 14 June a group of Young Fabians gathered to hear Shadow Culture Secretary, Ivan Lewis MP, outline his approach to the creative industries policy review.
We were told that the creative industries account for 5.6% of gross value added (“GVA”), provide 2.3 million jobs, make up 8.7% of all UK enterprises and raise £17.8 billion in exports (at the last count in 2008). Mr Lewis sees great potential here: the creative industries can be reasonably expected to reduce the deficit and promote social mobility, with the right incentives.
What do the captains of creative industry think of this? Brian Message of the Music Managers Forum told us that music managers are forced to seek foreign investment to fund their bands’ activities. Music is regarded as too risky a business for British banks. Vincent Scheurer of Sarassin LLP told us that the UK’s (highly respected) video game designers are being lured to Canada by a particularly attractive tax regime. It would seem that many of the world’s economies see the creative industries as a viable option for growth, too.
The current approach to the creative industries does not work as well as it could. We must examine how to sustain growth in the creative industries, something Mr Lewis is starting to do. For a start we should adopt a much less vague approach.
As catchy as the term ‘creative industries’ is, it does not allow for sufficient distinction to be made between creative sectors. This prevents proper targeting of policy. Labour must consider the potential of each sector and direct investment accordingly.
Will the performing arts industry provide more jobs than the games industry? Could the publishing industry produce more exports than film and television? It may seem crude to think along such basic lines but this must be done to prevent generalised policies that would hamper the industry further. The problems raised by Mr Message and Mr Scheurer cannot be successfully addressed by anything short of carefully targeted state intervention.
A failure to address generalisation could prevent the creative industries from enabling social mobility. Clustered policy has led to intense geographic clustering. The Conservatives’ East London Tech City is the result of this approach. While the profile given to the initiative is highly worthy of applause, it encourages the view that the creative industries are one single industry and should be based in one part of the country.
This has an immediate effect on social mobility. A generation of creative students who are unable to relocate risk missing out on apprenticeships, internships and, ultimately, the jobs they want. Can our creative industries go if creatives cannot participate? A more sensible approach to the creative industries would involve incentivising creative networks to form across the UK’s major cities, thereby opening access to all. Viewing the creative industries as a single entity will prevent this.
I am confident Mr Lewis recognises these concerns. If the creative industries are to develop into exceptional economic performers and catalysts of social mobility then each sector must be carefully examined, its strengths and weaknesses assessed and policy set accordingly.