The possibility for regeneration through culture is clear
From making Jennie Lee the country’s first arts minister to introducing free admission for national museums and galleries, Labour has many reasons to be proud of its track record in the arts.
There are powerful economic and social reasons to build on that record as the party looks for policies to create jobs and growth in its general election manifesto.
When running for leadership in the summer last year, Jeremy Corbyn committed to restoring the arts to the heart of government. He presented policies to build the talent pipeline for the creative industries by committing to more spending on the arts in schools, better skills training and developing creative apprenticeships.
Though this is a step in the right direction, we would argue the Labour election manifesto presented to the public must go further and contain fully formulated policies that will enable the creative industries, arts and cultural education — and therefore the nation — to thrive.
The creative industries are the fastest growing sector of the economy, contributing more than £87.4bn in gross value added. One in 11 jobs is in the creative economy — and they are good jobs that are not going to be replaced by robots. The arts and creative industries have been a crucial tool for social regeneration and have seen strong growth outside of London and the South East, significant as the rallying cry sounds for Labour supporters to campaign on the party’s core values.
The Creative Industries Federation, the body for all the UK’s creative industries, arts and cultural education, unveiled our own 10-point manifesto this week offering all political parties ideas that could create more jobs and growth across the whole of the country.
Brexit means there are issues that need to be addressed — but doing so can create opportunities to effect real change.
Take what is happening in education and training. Distracted by the debate over grammar schools, there are already serious skills shortages in parts of the creative industries such as animation and visual effects. Yet we are failing to prepare our young people with the right mix of creative and technical skills for these positions in our sector and in others such as engineering where they are also required.
The promotion of the EBacc (English baccalaureate), which contains no creative subjects, has worsened a longstanding decline in their take-up in schools. The arts should not be left to after-school clubs or parents to provide. We propose a creative skills commission to identify the skills we need in the UK workforce of the future. Sorting out policy on education and training is a matter of social justice — and the economy.
The arts and creative industries also have an enormous role in regional regeneration. Tate Liverpool was an important factor in the transformation of the Albert Docks. It has generated wealth and boosted tourism. Sage Gateshead, built on land detoxified of industrial waste using money from the EU has — with Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art — created a new creative economy in Newcastle-Gateshead.
Labour areas including Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Coventry have put their names forward to become UK City of Culture in 2021 after Hull’s successful 2017 bid.
There is much more that can be done to harness the success of the creative industries across the UK. We have proposed extending the roll-out of enterprise zones to cover the creative industries in cities and regions that want to use the sector to accelerate growth.
Investment in the creative sector is not an indulgence or a distraction — it is a major route to building a modern economy. We know local authorities are facing difficult decisions on budgets. But no other sector has delivered the rate of growth of the creative industries in the years since the 2008 crash so it is a good place to start in difficult financial circumstances.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already embraced the potential of the sector. During the mayoral campaign, the Conservative contender Zac Goldsmith had little to say even though the creative industries are some of the capital’s biggest employers.
Khan made the sector a central pillar and is now implementing a cultural manifesto with the creative industries a priority alongside housing and transport. It shows what could be possible.
These are challenging times requiring imaginative responses. That is precisely what the creative sector can offer.