Lessons for Government from latest creative industries report

Latest Government figures paint a powerful picture of the UK’s creative industries, which in 2012 out-performed all other sectors of the economy. They are now worth £71.4 billion a year and employ 1.68 million people – 5.6% of the workforce. The full report from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is well worth a read and can be seen online here.

Even these compelling figures don’t represent the full economic clout of the UK’s creative and cultural sector – the benefit all industries gain from our international reputation as a creative powerhouse, or the cultural diplomacy that supports vital trade negotiations (witness the use of the National Theatre’s War Horse during the recent UK trade delegation to China).

The power of cultural diplomacy - War Horse in China (Image: Press Association)

The power of cultural diplomacy – War Horse in China (Image: Press Association)

So I have two messages for Government about the future of the creative industries.

Firstly – creativity is not an innate trait that people simply have; it’s something that can and needs to be taught, nurtured and built up throughout the education system. Creative subjects must be guaranteed a place in school curricula, specialist arts schools and colleges must be funded properly, and students of arts and design must be viewed as no less central to the UK’s economic future, and therefore worthy of support, than those studying the sciences.

My second message is that a small amount of cultural investment reaps huge rewards. Arts and culture make up less than 0.1% of public spending. These new figures show that the creative sector accounts for over 5% of the economy – an outstanding return on investment. Funding for the cultural sector should be viewed as seed-funding rather than subsidy. This is a vital message when funding for DCMS was cut by 7% last year and when the Chancellor has announced that he expects to make a further £25 billion worth of cuts to the public sector following the 2015 election.

These are my initial thoughts on seeing this latest report, but I know UAL staff are the real experts in working in the creative sector and preparing students to do the same. Please share your thoughts here on we should do to maintain the health of our creative economy and what our messages to policymakers should be.

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