Creative industries, industrial ministers, ambitious mayors


The election is getting into its swing, but we want to approach it obliquely, for the moment. What are the topics that can get us away from the battle of the giants - that could cut across the obvious ideological positions?

There is something interesting going on around creative industries and industrial policy at the moment.   The Creative Industries Federation has submitted a proposal that makes a very hard-nosed case for the sector as a huge growth area for the UK economy. From the BBC news report: 

The federation's chief executive, John Kampfner, said: "There has been a tendency to dismiss the creative industries as something lightweight while claiming the glory of billions of pounds in trade that comes from hits such as War Horse, Sherlock and Slumdog Millionaire."

He said the government should recognise that creative industries "will be as important to future economic success as traditional industries, such as cars or oil and gas".

Among its other recommendations are campaigns to increase diversity in employment in the sector and advice for start-ups on exporting.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said creative industries contributed nearly £90bn to the economy in 2015.

He said TV producer Sir Peter Bazalgette is carrying out an independent review of how the sector "can help drive prosperity across the country by developing new technologies, capitalising on intellectual property rights and encouraging creativity from people of all ages and backgrounds". 

The respected arts consultant Simon Tait, in his Tait Mail this week, notes that there is an intriguing convergence between politics and this new priority for the creative industries: 

Next month there are to be mayoral elections for powerful new satraps in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Tees Valley, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and West of England, with a seventh in Sheffield being voted on next year. One of those likely to be elected, Andy Burnham, is a former culture secretary. These new mayors, whose writ will run over large tracts, could and should preside over new powerbases that will be able to challenge central government in key policy areas, and for too long the regional creative light has been hidden under bushels of the likes of transport, housing and healthcare

To have credibility with the extra-European trading partners they hope to link up with they will have to push creativity and its potential to the front of their portfolios, and they should figure large in their election manifestos. It is not just the earning power, which is immense, but the expectation of both their constituents now and their business counterparts. “All big cities now know that if they want to be successful they can’t do it without culture” says Justine Simons, who is also chair of the World Cities Culture Forum. “They have to have culture at the heart of their strategy”.