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):

Sustaining Great Art

Tools of the Trade

I have no idea how Julie’s Bicycle got their name but I know what they do: they help arts and creative organisations to become sustainable. Or in their own words:

Julie’s Bicycle is a not for profit organisation making sustainability intrinsic to the business, art and ethics of the creative industries.

Founded by the music industry, with expertise from the arts and sustainability, Julie’s Bicycle bridges the gap between the creative industries and sustainability. Based on a foundation of peer-reviewed research, we sustain creativity, enabling the arts to create change.

We work with over 1000 arts organisations across the UK and internationally, large and small, to help them measure, manage and reduce their environmental impacts.

They’re unique in their deep knowledge of both the arts & culture sector – their founder and CEO Alison Tickell comes from the music scene – and environmental standards and best practices.

They’ve recently been working with Arts Council England as a strategic partner to create indicators and tools to help arts organisations – for now, National Portfolio Organisations and Major Museum Partnerships – report on their environmental impact  – and they just co-published a nice report to draw the lessons from the first year of this project.

In 2012, Arts Council England became the first arts funding body in the world to embed environmental sustainability into the funding agreements of its major programmes. Arts organisations are an integral part of the fabric of their host cities and regions, and environmental sustainability is now, as Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, puts it, “both (an) ethical concern and economic imperative”.

Or to quote Anthony Sargent, General Director, Sage Gateshead:

There is no more essential task for us all – as citizens and as companies – than to start to live within the sustainable means of our planet.

Julie’s Bicyle has designed free tools and resources to support arts organisations in evaluating and reducing their environmental impact. It also provides useful case studies spanning a range of settings and scales:

Some interesting insights from the report:

Engagement and Impact

  • In the first year an outstanding 90% of all 704 organisations engaged in some capacity with the environmental reporting programme. These results represent the single biggest dataset from arts organisations globally.

  • In a survey, nearly 90% of funded organisations agreed or strongly agreed that “Arts Council Environmental Reporting has made or can make a positive difference to the arts sector as a whole”.

Size, shape, readiness and artform really do matter

Significant differences in reporting levels and reliability were observed across settings and artforms. Unsurprisingly, it is easier for cultural buildings and office-based organisations than for touring and outdoor events to assess their environmental impact; but the ability to report is also affected by the support and cooperation (or lack of) of landlords (for small organisations) and local authorities (for all).

In terms of artforms, “levels of engagement and reporting have generally been higher for theatre, Major partner museums  and visual arts, compared with literature, dance and music. Museums and theatres in particular have already been targeted by specific environmental initiatives, something which has not been the case for the other art forms”.

There is an appetite for learning through exchange and collaboration

A number of groups are already demonstrating the benefits of collaboration, including:

London Theatre Consortium, 13 theatres working to develop strategic, creative initiatives and share expertise and resources, including a sustainability strand.

Manchester Arts Sustainability Team, 13 arts organisations, venues and events, collaborating to support their own sustainability goals and Manchester’s climate change strategy.

Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues, 10 venues working to share learning and maximise their positive environmental, social, cultural and economic impact, with different workstreams, including a Green Campaign and Capital Investment Strategy which explores longer-termsustainable capital projects for the group

Royal Opera House, Royal National Theatre and Royal Albert Hall, who entered into a three-year contract for collective energy procurement known as ‘The Arts Basket’ provided by the energy broker Power Efficiency in 2012. Other organisations have since joined and benefits include reduced costs, better risk management and longer-term price certainty on a green tariff supply.

There is a clear need for a more differentiated strategy for year two and beyond

This is a significant outcome: defining categories of organisations based on their access to data – with relevant environmental indicators.

“Smaller organisations, offices and events (are) unable to provide meaningful energy and water data, and for organisations whose primary activity is touring and events, (…) reporting on other sources of environmental impact, e.g. transport and waste, may be more meaningful.”

Findings and recommendations from the Year 1 report will inform future funding agreements (2016-2018), including “continu(ing) to ask organisations to collect data and to develop policies and action plans that improve environmental performance and carbon emissions” as well as “ensur(ing) that what we ask is proportionate, as part of a differentiated strategy.”

Creative Employment

Tools of the Trade

Last spring’s call for (part-time, unpaid) interns from the Marina Abramovic Institute elicited some creative responses – and some more cautious comments.


Internships are commonly understood to be short-term practical work experiences, and should ideally be a win-win situation: the intern gains experience, skills, contacts and a general sense of their chosen industry; the employer gets an enthusiastic and committed assistant, perhaps even a future collaborator.

The problem when they’re not paid is that they create an unfair playing field, as Intern Aware – a UK-based campaign against unpaid internships – explains in this video:

On the Huffington Post UK, unpaid internships are blamed for widening the ‘elitist gap’ and likened to a form of modern day slavery; the BBC is reporting that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is targeting 200 employers who recently advertised internships to ensure they are paying the minimum wage; and the Guardian is regularly reporting on sectorial practices around unpaid internships and the culture of privilege they reproduce.

On the militant front, Internship Anonymous features some rather revolting personal stories, and the Internship Manifesto for the creative industries (by Toronto-based Sam Johnstone) is making some powerful points with its Intern Charter of Rights + Freedom, of which I’ll quote the last two ones (click to read the full manifesto):


Practices and regulations differ for each industry and country, but rules on compensation are not always enforced and are too easily circumvented by playing on the blurry frontier between volunteer and intern. Intern Aware addresses this issue:

If you’ve got set hours, tasks and responsibilities then you almost certainly count as a ‘worker’ and have a right to be paid. There are a few exemptions, for charities and people who are interning as part of their study.

In the cultural sector, there are now other ways to get one’s foot on the career ladder. The three initiatives featured below are helping out young people and emerging art workers to explore and gain experience in their dream career; they also support arts organisations by enabling them to expand their capacity; and they benefit the ecology of the sector at large, by nurturing the next generation and ensuring that skills and knowledge are continuously shared and improved.

Creative Employment Programme

The Creative Employment Programme is a £15m fund to support the creation of traineeships, formal apprenticeship and paid internship opportunities in England for young unemployed people aged 16-24 wishing to pursue a career in the arts and cultural sector.

It provides part-wage grants to employers who apply through a formal competitive process, with a rolling deadline every 5 weeks. The grants are provided up to the following amounts:

  1. Up to £2500 per paid internship based on a minimum of 26 weeks of employment at 30 hours per week. Wages must be paid at National Minimum Wage or above.

  2. Up to £1500 per Apprenticeship based on a minimum of 12 months at 30 hours per week. This is if the employer chooses to pay National Minimum Wage for Apprenticeships (£2.68 an hour).

  3. Up to £2000 per Apprenticeship based on a minimum of 12 months at 30 hours per week. This is if the employer chooses to pay National Minimum Wage or above for the age of the apprentice.

The scheme is funded by Arts Council England until March 2015 and run by Creative and Cultural Skills. The two organisations have co-published a “Guide to Internships in the Arts” clearly stating that “interns” that fall under the ‘worker’ status must be paid at least the minimum wage. And if interns “have a clear set of objectives, a specific role and formal duties, and (are) expected to help the arts organisation to achieve its aims”, then they are quite likely into this category.

The scheme also promotes a chart of Fair Access Principle, developed in collaboration with The Creative Society (see below), that articulates the difference between Volunteers, Work Experience, Internships and Apprenticeships, and encourages employers to commit to the following general Recruitment Practices:

We commit to advertising all opportunities fairly, openly and transparently. We will publicise details openly and in a range of relevant places including the National Apprenticeships Service Vacancy Service and Jobcentre Plus, where appropriate.

We also commit not to request that applicants possess qualifications that are not relevant.

The Creative Society

Formerly known as New Deal of the Mind, the Creative Society is “an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries”. It all started with an article in The New Statesman by founder and CEO Martin Bright, considering the effects of the cultural programmes of the American New Deal, such as:

The Federal Art Project conducted classes attended by 60,000 people a week and produced 234,000 works of art; the Federal Music Project gave 4,400 musical performances a month, with an average monthly attendance of three million people, and the Federal Theatre put on 1,813 plays. The Federal Writers’ Project produced guidebooks to the American states and nearly 200 books and pamphlets.

According to Britain’s leading expert on the New Deal, Professor Anthony Badger of Cambridge University:

The WPA was based on the principle that there was no point in putting unemployed writers to work digging roads. They were ridiculed at the time, and there were some ludicrous projects, but there were also some remarkable achievements.

The Creative Society conducts research and publishes guides and reports, campaigns for Fair Access to establish standards of recruitment,and runs event, projects and programmes, such as Right Futures, advising 16-19 interested in a career in music, film or design; Haringey Job Fund, subsidising jobs in the arts for 16-24 Haringey residents currently unemployed (and open to arts organisations based in any London borough); and This Is It!, a series of events across England for all paid interns and apprentices on the Creative Employment Programme.

The BBC Performing Arts Fund

The BBC Performing Arts Fund aims to seek out and support aspiring individuals and community groups who, for reasons of lack of existing support, personal background or circumstance, would not have been able to achieve their greatest potential without the Fund’s support or intervention.

Since its inception in 2003, the Fund has already awarded over £4m worth of grants, as well as offering mentoring and advice to help winners achieve their most ambitious goals. Previous winners have gone on to produce a Mercury Prize winning album, perform at the Glastonbury Festival, appear on Later with Jools Holland and land starring roles in the West End.

Each year the Fund’s work focuses on a different art form – music, dance or theatre – and grants are distributed via two schemes, one for individuals and one for community groups.

The charity is funded through revenue from the voting lines of BBC entertainment programmes such as Fame Academy, Over the Rainbow and The Voice.

The focus for 2013 is Community Theatre, and 19 Fellows and 58 community groups have just been selected to receive grants (£10,000 for individuals, £500 to 5,000 for groups). The Fellows are emerging artists, playwrights, producers and director from across the UK, placed for several months with a host organisation on a bespoke work experience programme. The community groups’ projects are equally varied, from Team Oasis in Liverpool who plans to “promote community togetherness, inclusion, integration; and above all, acceptance within the local Liverpool community” to the Duns Players who “want to improve their vocal and movement skills. These skills would be used with school children and older people in two new projects next year”. An ongoing blog provides information about working in the performing arts, updates on funding schemes and themes, and follow-up interviews and features on past winners.

Choreographing Our Future

The Long Read

In the post-institution-building era, how is art created and supported? Should – and can – public funding be as innovative as the contemporary practices and experiments it is meant to enable?

These are questions addressed in a recent report written by Shannon Litzenberger, a practising artist (a dancer, as the title might give it away) and arts policy researcher during her Innovation Fellowship at Canadian private foundation Metcalf.

The report is introduced as such on the foundation’s website:

As our cultural expression evolves, there is a need to re-look at some of the fundamental assumptions regarding how the arts are supported and sustained in Canada. The environment in which we are operating is radically different than in decades past. New technologies, changing demographics, global interconnectedness, and the evolving nature of public engagement in the arts have transformed our industry. Consequently, the working practice of the emerging generation is increasingly misaligned with current arts funding policies.

The author spent three years investigating industry trends in Canada, the UK, the US and Australia, meeting over 100 cultural leaders and reflecting on context and process. Her report is full of ideas and examples from artists, arts organisations, granting agencies and strategic consultants in the 4 countries of research – from Arts Council England’s project-based, continuous-intake funding programme Grants for the Arts to Toronto’s leading collaborative platform and shared workspaces Centre for Social Innovation and Artscape, via insights from DEMOS associate John Holden and WolfBrown’s consultant Alan Brown.

Litzenberger is careful to mention that “the recommendations contained in Choreographing our Future are not intended as prescribed solutions. They are designed to trigger a more informed debate within the sector about new ways to address future arts development.” The debate was there right from the launch event, where three Toronto-based arts advocate – a granting officer, an independent theatre creator and a consultant – presented to a full room their own views and reaction to the findings. What emerged from the public discussion was a strong desire to go further – but where?

The report conclusion contains clues to a possible direction: towards collaboration, between genres, generations and even industries.

It is not our intellect that will propel us forward, but our courage. We must be willing to erase the line that separates artist and institution, that polarizes the traditional from the contemporary, that pits disciplines of practice against each other, and isolates generations and cultural groups. In this new age of the arts — this newly celebrated creative economy — I am optimistic about the possibilities for artists, arts organizations, and funders to work together as creative innovators, as facilitators of engagement in creative life, and as ambassadors of a healthy, thriving, vibrant arts sector.

Makes life worth living

The Long Read

Arts Council England have updated their 10-year strategic plan – along with their communication methods. The strategic framework is summarised in a 2-minute animated video (below) and a colourful infographic that describes the five goals and their relation to one another (click to enlarge).


Originally published in 2010, this 2013 update – coming just over a year after the Cultural Olympiad – reflects the Arts Council’s commitment to building on the 2012 legacy as well as its newly expanded remit for museums and libraries.

The full publication – which can be downloaded here – presents the work and mission of the Arts Council, takes stock of the current situation and sets objectives and measures of success. For each of the strategic goals, it paints a picture of what success will look like in 2020, details the policies and methods that are being implemented to get there, and lists the assessment tools and indicators needed to evaluate the progress of the strategic plan over the 10-year period (now 7).

It is also peppered with inspirational quotes from artists and cultural sector professionals, a few of which are copied below.

Makes life worth living
Jeremy Deller, artist

The arts have the potential to show that the everyday can be reinvented and that the ordinary is usually extraordinary and that the extraordinary can become part of or intervene and wonderfully interrupt everyday life.
Naomi Kashiwagi, artist

A really great museum is like a combination of a compass and a kaleidoscope. It gives you a sense of where you stand in the world and opens your mind to a myriad of possibilities.
Sally MacDonald, Co-founder, Heritage without Borders

Art is as complex as we are. It is hard for any one of us, artist or not, to understand who we are and what we genuinely do and art, which comes out of this creative chaos, reflects our situation and helps us recognise its variations,how we connect and disconnect with other people, places and ideas.
Siobhan Davies, artist and choreographer