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How Big? That Big!

December 8th, 2018 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on How Big? That Big!)

A few surprises and some good sense in a new report on growing the cultural and creative industries. The picture it paints is recognisable:
“The majority of enterprises in the creative industries are micro businesses (95%) – businesses that employ fewer than 10 people.”
“With an average number of 3.3 employees, many creative enterprises consist of a core team with freelancers contracted to provide specific skills, services, and products where needed.”
“Creative enterprises were most likely to attribute their turnover growth to:
* Focusing on brand and profile (44%)
* Building a larger client/customer base (44%)”.

The report directly addresses Brexit, recommending a review of how European Structural Funds have benefited the sector so that its domestic replacement is properly scoped. The recommendation for continued involvement in EU sectoral programmes (Creative Europe, Erasmus+, H2020) will also need a significant financial commitment for UK organisations to ‘pay their way’. Hopefully the delivery will be through the devolved Parliaments who have the policy frameworks and delivery mechanisms, but the money comes from the money returned to UK Government by the EU.

Tackling the UK’s infamous centralist politics and institutions will also be important. EU funding played a key role in tackling sectoral London-centrism and the hoarding of investment in the South East of England, so many of us will be hoping to see some commitment to maintaining this decentralising approach.

The report’s recommendations about creative subjects in education is welcome given the dire impact of their elimination in the curriculum, particularly acute in England. This will also address the increasing concern over middle class domination of parts fo the sector. I would also have liked to see some reference to libraries, access to knowledge exchange and non-formal education, both as part of the sector, and as contributing to growth and opportunity.

What surprised me were the survey results concerning growth:
“-81% of creative enterprises aim to grow, according to their own measures of growth, over the next three years. -19% of creative enterprises do not intend to grow further.
Previous Drew Wylie research in this terrain has found quite a prevalent ambivalence about growth in many creative micro-businesses and SMEs. The operators were nervous about taking on business responsibilities when their raison d’être was creative production. This difference in finding is partially because ‘the Fed’ have usefully come up with a more sophisticated take on what constitutes growth. But may also reflect increasing ambition. The report can be found here: https://www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/…/Creative%20I…

Eurobeing

June 26th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on Eurobeing)

IMG_8332The challenge for those of us that define ourselves as European and feel European is how do we continue to act European.  For those of us in Scotland where we also voted to be European and voted for a Scottish Parliament committed to the EU, there is also the question of how do we support our politicians, institutions and businesses to be European.  In Drew Wylie’s case this challenge particularly applies to the arts, cultural and creative industries, and Scotland, our base, needs a strategy.

This plan should consider the goals and approach to EU investment for culture and creativity in programmes like Creative Europe, H2020 and Erasmus, beginning with six key elements:

  1. supporting transnational collaboration, exchange and partnership
  2. a focus on opportunities for young people
  3. an approach that brings together the creative, the social and the economic
  4. processes, from application assessments to evaluation, that are in themselves transnational and transparent
  5. links to European ‘years of’ (for example 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage) and the European Capital of Culture programme
  6. support for cultural and creative SMEs

The work of our politicians and institutions to secure Scotland’s place in the EU will be immeasurably strengthened by a culture and creativity programme that enables us to act like Europeans.

Liminality

May 8th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural policy | Europe | ways of working - (Comments Off on Liminality)

IMG_7950“The space between is the space where things change” is how Prof. Gary West introduced us to his liking for liminality and his pondering of how to give voice to Jock Duncan’s Scots language archives of WW1 veterans at ‘Crossing Boundaries: Diverse Voices in Traditional Culture’  today.  Actors and musicians have the skills to explore this kind of challenge, but what about larger questions of crossing cultural boundaries of class, religion and ethnicity?  Scotland has a great schools platform for exploring these questions in the curriculum for excellence, but what about teachers and parents appetite to do so, and what about a curriculum for excellence for society as a whole? The session went on to explore culture, diverse communities and public spaces as well as the question of whether we have an appropriate open public space in which culture can operate.

Supporting and delivering community driven cultural events in public space is not for the fainthearted. There are potential tensions at every corner, between different community interest groups, with conflicting creative priorities as well as with the gatekeepers to the public space. Local Councillors have traditionally played an important role here, but the depletion of local authority capacity is a major issue.

Could the recently announced 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage be useful here in bringing together a wide range of agencies, organisations and the Scottish Government to make a step change in the diversity and accessibility of cultural heritage in Scotland? It follows hard on the heels of Scotland’s 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and provides a focus that chimes with the country’s enthusiasm for taking its place on the European and international stage. The fact that it is a little over a year and a half away should also capture the attention of all the interested parties. Liz McConnell of BEMIS gave a hint of what may be possible with her account of how a small investment linked to the 2015 Year of Food & Drink led to 65 culturally diverse projects in 15 different conurbations, where 60% were new applicants.

Photo: Jan Miller exhibition in the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Flagey2

April 22nd, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on Flagey2)

IMG_7874Day two of the European Cultural Forum began with some clear statements of policy and strategic intent, with Vice President Mogherini impressing with her outline of a new strategy for the role of culture that will be shortly be presented to the Parliament.  Cultural diplomacy, plurality and  generation Erasmus were all put centre stage.  The subsequent discussions brought the challenges of implementation to the fore.  Shreela Ghosh reminded us that multiculturalism under attack is not the same as multiculturalism failing. Representatives from Southern Europe were quick to point to the impact of austerity on the capacity and resources on the ground, where cultural strategy is executed.

It was, however, the discussions about language, identity and communications which were most interesting. It was good to hear the Commission’s Martine Reicherts call for the EU to be less timid in talking about what it attempts, and what it achieves.  But Elif Shafak’s comments on how our media’s positioning Turkey as a dangerous ‘other’ played into the hands of those working to dismantle the European Turkey of her childhood were compelling. She talked of the cognitive gaps that emerge as we use the same words differently as we move from country to country.  Not a bad way to consider sectorial gaps, and tensions that emerged earlier in the forum when considering the relationship between culture and creative industries.  Getting the language right is something we learned the hard way in Scotland in the ‘growing pains’ of a brave move to merge arts and the creative industries strategy and investment.

Flagey1

April 19th, 2016 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | cultural policy | Europe | news - (Comments Off on Flagey1)

Screenshot_01_10_2015_13_48‘Technocratic Europe’ versus ‘Citizen Europe’ is never far from the surface of any EU focused discussion and day one of the European Culture Forum was no exception.  A new strategy to put ‘culture at the heart of the European identity’ – a 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage – and more weight on the artistic value of cultural projects laid out the Parliament’s stall (1). But the debate on culture and society that followed didn’t nail two key issues.  First, why do we struggle to develop strategy that reconciles three aspects of culture – as industry, as social activity, and as…well… culture?  Second, how can we deliver culture’s potential to bring people together when austerity has killed off much of the on the ground capacity needed to support this work?

The next session was a full throated roar for the importance of the cultural and creative industries to the European economy. Europe produces creative talent in abundance. ’A superpower of creativity’ that loses out when it comes to translating this into products and services.  The panel discussed how we connect up investment, research, disciplines and sectors.  There was a call for ‘horizontal funding’ that mirrored Silvia Costa’s call to link Creative Europe, H2020 and COSME to increase the reach and impact of cultural investment.  This plea to break down silos was slightly undone by a failure to grapple with questions raised from the floor about new economic arguments like Basic Income models  or commentators like Paul Mason.  However, I was struck by the ease with which Italy’s Minister for Culture, Dario Franceschini, traversed all of the different drummers for which culture must dance.  The intrinsic and instrumental values of art were different sides of the same coin.

But this was a day to appreciate those working to put culture at the heart of Europe’s various agendas. Linking sectors and disciplines, a strong restatement of the importance of intercultural dialogue in bringing people together in a changing Europe, and capitalising on the 2018 European Year of Culture Heritage opportunity all need hard graft and commitment, not rhetoric, or polemic.

  1. Silvia Costa, Chair of the Culture and Education Committee, European Parliament