Why the UK’s creative industries need to be more ambitious

By Richard Ware

5th April 2017

A week ago today, after May’s Article 50 letter was handed to Tusk, the UK’s creative businesses were conspicuous in their absence from the Evening Standard’s round-up of ‘industry’ responses.

Surely, the likes of the Creative Industries Federation – which delivered a weighty Brexit Report last year, laying out its proposals for the sector – should be considered worthy of national and business media platforms when it comes to reaction from ‘industry’, alongside banking, retail and property.

Perhaps when it comes to the UK’s vital industries, there is still a perception that ‘creative’ means arts luvvies extolling liberal values over a few bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Or that it’s all cat-vertising on the Tube and coffee-foam selfies.

Creativity isn’t serious, right? It doesn’t equate to business. Not real business.

Creativity mean business

Well, listen up: the UK’s creative industries contributed £221bn to the UK’s GVA in 2015 (over 13% of total UK GVA), according to the last DCMS report, and they account for one in 11 of UK jobs; they now make up one of five ‘world-leading sectors’ named in the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper.

Creativity fuels innovation in business; it drives the development and application of new technologies. The continued resilience of UK advertising is both a reflection and driver of consumer and business confidence. Our creative services and intellectual property are what we mean when we say ‘Brand Britain’.

We have an award-winning TV and film industry that reaches millions across the world. Our music is storming the global charts, our designers are celebrated on fashion week runways, and our architects are shaping the world’s skylines. We have home-grown success stories from visual effects company Foundry and indie games studio ustwo, through to The Lad Bible, Hetherwick Studios and Punchdrunk.

The world sees our success and strength as a national brand, through the lens of our exports and our world-leading position as a powerhouse of creativity.

Making the case

Over the weekend, the Observer reported on a cross-party group of MPs putting pressure on the Government to guarantee the status of current EU staff and that recruitment from EU countries can continue. Where is the cross-party campaign to protect the interests of the creative industries when it comes to talent or to funding? Who is leading from the front on this?

The impact of Brexit is a very real worry for our creative businesses, and this should worry us all. The BBC recently reported that two fifths of gaming companies could relocate, according to games industry trade body, Ukie . In the Metro, there was a gloomy outlook forecast for much of the music industry.

Organisations like the Creative Industries Federation, Ukie and PACT have been doing stellar work as the voice of their members. DCMS has been vocally championing its industries, engaging with them and the wider business community to make its strong economic case – and firmly disproving those who used to call it the ‘Ministry of Fun’.

United voices, with strong and decisive messaging, backed up hard facts and headline-grabbing numbers. It served us well in the lead up to last week. But what comes next?

How do we stay current and relevant in the media and with influencers, so that we can continue to get our narrative out there? How do we make sure we’re getting our message out there and engaging our audiences?

Talking recently with a producer at the Today programme, it’s apparent that they’re after more than a sector position on any one issue. They want more than reports and ‘insight’.

Of course, we need to keep making the business case through our content and communications, and proving what we say through evidence. But, we’re also at the stage when we need to be more ambitious to build on our letters, opinion columns and reports.

Time to get creative

As the creative industries, let’s actually get creative in how we communicate.

The day after the EU Referendum, I wrote a blog ‘Remain’s Failure is our Own’, which called out those of us in the comms industry for simply not doing enough to fight for staying in Europe. Where was the creativity? Where was the clear brand message for Remain? You get the idea. I was in Peak Remoan mood, and it was a product of passion.

But the argument for a more ambitious approach to communications still very much applies.

The majority in the creative industries may not have wanted Brexit, but we’ve got it now. Last month, the Liberal Democrats came out in vocal support of the creative sector, with their report The Power of Creativity and Brexit. Creativity and Brexit. It is that ‘and’ that we need to grab with both hands, and we need to run with it.

So, let’s utilise the great creative skills that we have, to showcase our brilliant industry to our audiences – whether they be in Whitehall, the City, or round the world.

Why not be bold enough to take politicians and business leaders on an immersive theatrical experience that tells our success stories and communicates what we need?

Skills and new talent will be vital to the health of our industries, so let’s go into schools and get the next generation to come up with creative ways of championing what makes Britain’s creativity for them. How would they show Britain to the world through fashion, art and film?

Organisations need to work together. We are stronger pooling our resources and reach, our talent and ideas. Yesterday’s launch of Culture UK, from the BBC and cultural organisations across the nation, is a brilliant example of how we can inspire new audiences and show our creative clout.

Let’s engage across our regions. Too often, the media and creative industries are painted as London-centric. There’s some truth in that. But, creativity is the lifeblood that runs through the whole of Britain – from our regional digital hubs and arts institutions, to our media cities and every business (big or small) that uses creative services to grow and flourish.

Our creativity enriches the economy and the businesses of our nation, just as much as it enriches our minds and souls.

Now is the time to show it.