Where Culture Meets Commerce

The Long Read

2014 will be Year of Creativity in the UK, or at least that’s what the launch party was called – celebrating a brand new website all about the creative industries, produced by the Creative Industries Council, a policy advisory group providing a “joint forum between the creative industries and government”.

19 organisations – official government bodies, like Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and a host of professional industry representatives, such as the British Fashion Council or the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising – came together to make the case for creativity. Full of facts and figures, case studies and resources, the website is designed as a “single overview and destination guide to the UK’s unique creative landscape” for an “international trade audience”. It’s part of the Britain is GREAT campaign – a government initiative to “welcome the world to visit, study and do business with the UK”.

The website is showcasing the UK as the place “where culture meets commerce” and the British creative industries as a great choice for discerning investors; every industry represented gets a micro-site with facts and figures and lists of reasons to choose British. It’s also a source of information on funding and financing for creative industries professionals, via a link to the Creative Finance Network. For both audiences, a calendar gathers all significant trade and industry events, from the London Art Fair to the London Fashion Week, the British Craft Trade Fair and Liverpool Sound City.

It also features a series of video interviews with UK Trade & Investment Commercial Officers based around the world, from Russia to Brazil, India, Japan and the UAE. Here’s the French representative, talking about how the UK creative industries are perceived across the Channel, pondering about the areas of creative growth in France (“it’s a bit difficult at the moment”) and attempting to describe her own culture in 3 words.

Industries represented include:

  • Advertising
  • Architecture
  • Arts & Culture
  • Craft
  • Design
  • Fashion
  • Games
  • Music
  • Publishing
  • TV & Film

Each industry gets their own ‘5 reasons’ to convince investors to choose the UK to fulfill their creative needs, and Arts & Culture’s bankable features include: – International collaborations, with a nod to “the UK’s history as a global trading nation and its use of cultural diplomacy” (such as the World Collections programme or the Royal Opera House working with the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the National Performing Arts Centre in Mumbai and the Royal Opera House Muscat, Oman to offer tours, broadcasts, cinema screenings and training programmes); – Professionalism, integrity and originality in the performing arts and music, making the UK a global influencer – here musicals, stand-up comedy and blockbuster exhibitions are quoted as examples of the wide reach and appeal of British productions;

– A strong education system, through conservatoires, performing arts schools and museum curatorial programmes that attract students “from all over the globe” and train the next generation of arts professionals;

Sector-wide partnerships, through networks and umbrella organisations that foster regional, national and international collaborations;

– And an entrepreneurial mindset, with 88% of people in the performing arts sector, for instance, working in companies of five or fewer people, including for themselves – higher than the UK average of 76% (although I’m not sure that this is necessarily a good thing). The Clore Leadership Programme also gets a mention for offering a range of fellowships, short courses and workshops aimed at developing leadership and business skills across the sector.

The facts and figures – rather London-centric and largely drawn from recent Arts Council research documents such as The Contribution of the Arts and Culture to the National Economy, published in May 2013, and the Advocacy Toolkit, summarised here on Arts of Festivals – serve the economic purposes of the campaign, showcasing a strong a confident arts & culture sector that can export productions and artists and attracts students and tourists, and the notion of cultural diplomacy is pervasive throughout – the British Council is a core institutional partner – but there is yet another aspect of the campaign that transpires in the case studies: bringing home international talent to contribute to the vitality of the British scene.

Two out of four of the case studies feature international artists who are currently working in the UK through the new Visa Tier 1, open to artists with “exceptional talent”. Arts Council England has been appointed to assess the applications for the first-year pilot scheme and has produced a video about the process (with Canadian circus artist Hugo Desmarais and Turkish author Elif Shafak, featured in the case studies, and Ugandan singer-songwriter Sarah Ndagire):