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Is creativity a dirty word to Government?

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by Magnus Shaw

 

As the coalition continues to press citizens to find jobs, while simultaneously conspiring to reduce the opportunities available, jobseekers face further indignity. In recent weeks I've heard many opinion formers and politicians bemoaning people's ambitions to work in the media or creative industries. 'They need to be realistic and lower their sights', one minister told us. Well, at least he acknowledged a creative career is a high calling.

In truth, Britain leads the world in creativity. We gave the planet The Beatles, David Hockney, Alan Bennett, Monty Python, Pink Floyd, Charles Dickens, Ian McKellen, the internet, John Peel, Sex Pistols, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Spitting Image, Danny Baker, Peter Cook, Alan Parker, Boy George, William Boyd ... and on I could go. However, for some baffling reason, our lords and masters have a thinly disguised contempt for the creative arts.

Thanks to swingeing cuts, libraries are closing, theatres are facing a complete withdrawal of their backing and the Arts Council has suffered a cutback of almost 4% since 2010. Combine this with an overhaul of the national curriculum which treats childhood creativity as something  akin to a corrupting force, and it isn't hard to see which way the wind is blowing.

It's tempting to see policy makers as a cabal of ignorant philistines, devoid of an appreciation for artistic endeavours. Actually, I don't think this is the case. Indeed, I suspect there is something more cynical going on - and that is vote grabbing. I would suggest ministers perceive the average voter to be apathetic about creativity, assuming the creative industry to be a Mickey Mouse business and therefore dispensable.

They're wrong of course. This couldn't be further from the truth, and I don't say it because  the industry employs me. I say it because the creative economy is worth £36 billion pounds to the UK annually. I know this because George Osborne told us so on 5th December 2012, as he announced a £6 million investment in computer games businesses. Now, I'm quite sure that money was very welcome at that time (although £6 million doesn't go terribly far when spread across an entire commercial sector), but it is completely nonsensical when the thrust of funding and policy is so negative, so disparaging.

Whether we like it or not, Britain no longer mines coal, makes and exports steel nor operates vast factories. Not in any significant way, at least. With our manufacturing base a distant memory and heavy industry condemned to history, our reputation for exceptional creativity has never been more precious. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say this particular talent which may well lead us out of the accursed financial slump. 
British radio, advertising, TV, art direction, graphic design, animation, web development, illustration, movies and, naturally, copywriting - these are the activities other countries envy. This is the work at which we excel. To run them down and divert young people from careers in these areas is beyond  foolhardy.

We ignore the splendour of British creativity at our peril.

 

Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant

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