Economy: Creative Industries
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (Spokesperson in the Lords, Culture, Media & Sport; Liberal Democrat)
asked Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the role and contribution of the creative industries to the economy and well-being of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful that so many of your Lordships have turned up to take part in the debate. It makes the point that this is an interesting and important subject to which not enough time is given, not only tonight but in general. Noble Lords should not waste their precious minutes thanking me for the debate.
The creative industries are a central part of civic and community life, not an optional extra. They give people a place in which to exercise and enjoy their imagination. They define and bind communities, providing understanding of the world we inhabit and what makes us human. They spearhead regeneration, contribute to social cohesion and improve the quality of life, all of which enhances the well-being of the UK.
The creative industries are not a cultural sideshow. They are not trivial just because a lot of them relate to entertainment. They are a key economic driver; indeed, they are the fastest growing sector of the economy, growing at 5 per cent per annum and generating 7.3 per cent of the UK's GDP. They are bigger than the financial services sector and provide jobs for around 2 million people. Recent technological advances—the internet, digitalisation and so on—are only increasing their potential. The UK has the third largest computer and video games market in the world, the third largest market for music sales and the economic benefit of the visual arts sector is estimated to be in the region of £1.5 billion per annum. In an era which has seen manufacturing jobs halved since 1997, the creative sector is the new economy. Real value nowadays lies in design, not manufacture.
I was recently in Sheffield, a case in point. The city's economy was based on the industries of steel, cutlery and engineering. When these collapsed, Sheffield City Council was one of the first in the UK to turn to the cultural industries as an alternative source of employment creation and urban regeneration. There, it was discovered that putting money into culture became investment rather than subsidy. Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive of NESTA, has spotted this. The other day he said that,
"as globalisation drives down the costs of manufacture, it is in the industries where creativity and tacit knowledge are at a premium that the value-add for UK plc lies".
Despite this, creativity is not given the status it deserves.
It starts with education. Creativity needs to be nurtured from the beginning, yet creative skills are stifled in our schools by a system dominated by exams and league tables. Priority is given to what is measurable, not to open-ended exploration. With the rejection of the Tomlinson report, the national curriculum continues to undervalue vocational qualifications; I am obviously not talking about higher education here.
I was recently present at an interview with Jude Kelly, an exemplar of success in the creative industries, in which she made a very interesting point. In the past, the opportunity to read and write was not seen as a basic human entitlement. Nowadays, the opportunity to be creative is treated in this way. Her argument is that the nurturing, exercising and development of the imagination is as liberating as the ability to read and write. The Government's Creative Partnerships scheme, which sends artists into schools to work with teachers and pupils, proves her point. It has been hugely successful. It helps teachers to teach more imaginatively, crucially across the whole curriculum, and to focus on developing creative skills that are fundamental to success in the 21st century; its 2006 Ofsted report was glowing. The Minister has said to me on many occasions that this scheme is safe, but further assurances are always welcome. The Government should readdress the balance and raise the profile of creativity within schools generally.
Another contribution the creative sector makes—it is a point of well-being—is in furthering people's understanding of the communities they live in, the nation they inhabit and the world as a whole. Britain has historically recognised this. In 1753, the British Museum was created—the first national museum in the world. In the words of its present director, Neil MacGregor:
"It was a product of the Enlightenment—a conviction that knowledge and understanding were indispensable ingredients of civil society".
Instead of dwelling on what makes us different, we should understand how we overlap.
Thanks to free admission to DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries, courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, capital investment due to lottery funding and the Renaissance in the Regions programme, many more people are able to benefit from this enlightenment, as well as the pleasures it offers. A visitor to the recently reopened Weston Park Museum in Sheffield wrote in the visitors' book that,
"the people responsible at the Museum have tried to be as inclusive as possible with all the different communities in Sheffield and the outcome is fantastic as no group feels excluded from visiting".
An exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, "Black Victorians", inspired a young fashion designer whose resulting collection, also entitled "Black Victorians", won an award at the recent London Fashion Week.
Across the country, our museums and galleries are contributing to regeneration and social cohesion. They are playing a role in the creative and cultural economy through employment, inspiration and the opportunities they give to learn and exercise the imagination. Yet core funding for our museums and galleries has not kept up with inflation, while costs have risen at a higher rate. The present grant formula does not include the extra wear and tear to the buildings caused by their success, through the ever increasing number of visitors. Why not? Tony Travers, who wrote a report published in December 2006, said:
"Without proper resources it is unlikely that the complex objectives now set for museums and galleries can be delivered".
Yet they are such a success. The Minister reassured me the other day that the money already invested in Renaissance in the Regions was safe. But it is the funds that Renaissance has not yet received, and that are needed for the programme to be rolled out across the country as promised, that I am concerned about.
I recognise that the funding of these industries is a complex ecology, which must involve a mixed economy. But the contribution that the creative industries make to our quality of life in both various and specific ways is not sufficiently taken into account when the question of what they are literally worth is calculated. The DCMS struggles to get heard in the Government. Its budget is just 2 per cent of that of the Department of Health. Look how much money was wasted on Connecting for Health, the DoH's IT programme. It was suggested in a recent Guardian report that the final bill will be £15 billion. Just a few million of that would so help the DCMS yet, instead, the Government have frozen the Arts Council's budget for the next three years which, with inflation taken into account, means a real-terms cut in funding from now. On
"We have avoided boom and bust in the economy. We don't intend to resume it in arts and culture".
Yet only nine days later, Tessa Jowell announced a raid of £675 million more on the National Lottery good causes fund to pay for the increasing costs of the Olympics. All this is such short-sighted behaviour. As the Values and Vision manifesto of the cultural sector put it:
"In this 21st century, goods, services and industries driven by knowledge and creativity will define Britain's competitive edge".
A couple of weeks ago, Gordon Brown spoke these words:
"The legacy of any Government has got to be to take culture seriously, as it is at the heart of everything that being British is about. I see the huge range of British success: we are winning Oscars, Emmys. We've got great cultural centres including Brighton and now Gateshead ... We have an enormous amount of creative work that makes us the great creative centre in the world and we have got to back that".
A decade of sustained funding under Labour has seen an explosion in creativity, for which the Government should be congratulated. So I suggest to the Prime Minister-designate that he fulfils his own words and, on