State unveils blueprint for Creative Britain

The first ever plan on how state support can turn the UK into the “world’s creative hub” has been unveiled by the government.

It includes the creation of 5,000 industry-designed apprenticeships, creative education for all UK pupils and a Davos-style summit to bring together creative captains.

According to its authors, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, its aim is to ‘turn creative talent into jobs’ so Britain’s creative firms can thrive internationally.

But the strategy isn’t just about supporting established firms. At its heart, it talks of “making a career out of your passion and a business from your ideas.”

By proposing a raft of measures, not all of them new, the aim in ten years’ time is to ensure that the local economies in the UK’s major cities are driven by creativity.

Too often, the plan’s authors said on Friday, “a fledgling creative career depends on who you know, how far from home you are…or how little you are prepared to work for.”

Under the plan, 5,000 apprenticeships, to be designed by employers, will help people from all backgrounds make the most of their creative skills, the government said.

Industry giants including EMI, the Royal Opera House and Aardman Animations will help develop five new centres of excellence in creative skills, similar to the Atrium in Cardiff.

Routes into creative jobs should also become clearer with the birth of the ‘Academic Hub’ for the creative industries, which will bring together schools, art colleges and universities.

Both the Hub and the apprenticeships will be closely watched by Creative & Cultural Skills, which warns that creative employers are being presented with too many unskilled creative graduates.

Meanwhile, individuals already in creative businesses will be able to use “regional beacons” or networks of creativity – deployed to maximise the amount of business support for their firm.

The Arts Council will continue to provide venture capital to small creative firms, but will direct its support at projects that show “commercial potential”, not just artistic excellence.

In line with previous announcements, the government said it is “committed to safeguarding the intellectual property rights” of creative entrepreneurs so they are prosperous in the long-term.

Separately, a raft of industry-suggested measures to support enterprise has been developed, with priority given to IP and financing options to enable creative companies to grow.

The government’s IP commitment also extends to the Web: it says internet service providers have until April 2009 to tackle illegal downloading or it will legislate with sanctions.

A review to explore the path to next-generation broadband has also been given the green light, in addition to Ofcom’s probe into the UK’s infrastructure capabilities.

Already, the UK’s high-speed internet is lagging when compared to France and Germany, while its average speeds are outpaced by the likes of Finland and Slovakia.

“We need to give our creative industries a powerful global presence and the opportunity to compare themselves with the very best in the world,” the government said on Friday.

It added that the “centrepiece” of its strategy is the World Creative Business Conference, a new annual event which “we hope will become the equivalent of Davos for the creative industries.”

Britain’s creative industries, valued at £60million a year, currently employ just over 1.9million people and contribute 7.3 per cent of gross domestic product.

Design luminary Wayne Hemingway said any improvement to these figures would be a welcome achievement.

“Until recently the creative industries were seen as a bit of a Cinderella part of the economy, but things have now changed, as they should,” he said.

“We're second only to the service sector in our contribution to the economy and its good news that the government now recognises our importance.”

Moray MacLennan, president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, believes the new strategy will come to “mark the moment when government acknowledged that 'Creative Britain' will provide our future competitive edge.”

“It's up to us as practitioners to seize the opportunity to be the creative hub for the world,” he added.

Meanwhile, the government’s emphasis that its action plan contains 26 pledges of action failed to impress the Conservatives.

“Where is the big boost to the creative economy that we were all expecting?” asked Jeremy Hunt, shadow culture secretary.

Speaking to the Financial Times, he said the strategy is full of “re-announcements, reviews and consultations” and that the creative industries expected “much more than the rehashing of old ideas.”

But Tom Bewick, chief executive of CCSkills, said any initiative, such as five hours of cultural education a week, to encourage youngsters into creative careers should be welcomed.

“However, we think it’s important for the young people and the sector that culture is taken in its broadest sense, and not just limited to so-called high-culture and classical art.”

His comments point to the group’s recent research showing that 95% of the people that they estimate to be working in the creative and cultural industries are white.

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