The UK Government’s Green Paper sets out ten pillars on which a new industrial strategy will be built for the UK. The creative industries – everyone from architects and writers to web and game designers, from photographers to performers – has been identified as a key part of this new approach. The question is how do creatives fit into the ten pillars, and how will they be best served by the new strategy.
Some of the pillars are directed at sectors where the creative industries input is as a service e.g. infrastructure projects, improving scientific innovation, affordable energy and improving government procurement. There are other pillars where changes need to occur for the creative sector to benefit, in particular, the focus on STEM subjects in teaching and skills development. Without a focus on creative subjects in schools and universities the current rapid growth of the creative sector will be undermined, not enhanced, in years to come. In addition, the weakness in content development skills across the sector is an ‘Achilles Heel’ which will undermine the expansion, and potential global reach, of creative output in the UK.
The key to the new strategy working is based upon a number of other pillars working.
- Supporting Creative businesses to start and develop world class IP content.
- Cultivating the existing world leading creative sector to grow.
- Engaging with creative talents across the whole of the UK.
- Developing new institutions to meet the needs of the dominant creative workforce – freelancers, and companies – micros.
So what are the key problems?
Each of the above four areas has distinctive problems which need to be addressed.
Creative Start Ups and Development.
Thousands of arts and media graduates enter the creative industries each year, alongside numerous freelance entrepreneurs . On this basis we should see a logarithmic growth in the creative sector. However, many freelancers leave the industry within 5-10 years with a subsequent loss of skills and talent. Why? Lack of access is a key issue, as is a negative romanticised culture, along with the fragmented and unsupported nature of most creative start ups and freelancers.
In addition, much of the key skills to develop successful content which works for global audiences is missing in their training. This lack of skill is compounded by an absence of an effective mentoring scheme within the industry. The latter is largely owing to the micro size of most companies who work from project to project with no capacity for extra staff or training. See Nick Park talking about the move from successful Oscar winning short films to feature films HERE
Cultivating The Creative Sector
All businesses need financial support at the early stages. Many argue that the arts and creative companies are cheap to set up, and so no investment is necessary to encourage start ups in this sector. This attitude has led to a massive number of failures, and an ongoing talent drain.
It also ignores the reality of much of the new digital creative environment. To have a chance of a mobile game being a financial success means an investment in excess of £300,000. While a feature film takes a minimum of £2.5m and a high end TV series over £1m per episode. Even a graphic novel needs in excess of £100.000. These are not enormous sums compared to a new drug development but they are hardly pocket-money. The lack of portfolio investments across creative projects at this relatively small scale is a major inhibitor of growth.
Engaging with Talent Everywhere
The past has been dominated by the need for talent to move to London to be a success. The future must be based upon the recognition that talent can thrive everywhere in a digital age if given the right support. Two animators living on a Cumbrian fell farm are just as capable of delivering a world class children’s series or advertising content, as someone working in Soho, if they are digitally supported and connected to partners and collaborators.
Building these networks and support structures is a critical part of ensuring every talented person in the UK can have a reasonable chance at success in the creative sector.
Creating the Right Institutions – Networks.
The creative industry is dominated by freelancers – 43% according to Creative Skillset, in some disciplines it is much higher than this. Add to this the numerous micro companies and we are dealing with a very uncoordinated and fragmented sector. This inevitably presents a major problem for government and national organisations, who seek to talk to similar scale bodies as themselves, and lack the capacity to engage with literally tens of thousands of sole traders and micro companies.
However, every part of the creative sectors has its own small networks. Every part of the UK has universities with links to the current and future generations of creatives. With broadband promised for all areas it will be possible to link any individual creative to another creative or a team anywhere in the UK to develop new works.
For this to happen we need a new digital platform which goes beyond just advertising opportunities, and show cases, to actively encourage new projects, builds teams, and provides creative development and financial support at the early and key stages of the creative process.