Better together? The case for the Creative Industries Federation

The Creative Industries Federation aims to unite the UK’s creative industries. We talk to its director, John Kampfner, about its aims and ambitions

The Creative Industries Federation aims to unite the UK’s creative industries. We talk to its director, John Kampfner, about its aims and ambitions

The Creative Industries Federation is the brainchild of Sir John Sorrell and led by former New Statesman editor John Kampfner. George Osborne spoke at its launch event: its high-powered board includes the BBC director general Lord Hall, Sir Nicholas Serota of Tate and the National Theatre’s chief executive Tessa Ross. But what’s it all for?

The CIF, Kampfner says, will “be the national membership body for all public arts, the commercial creative industries and creative education … we believe there is massive self-interest for everybody to link togethermuch more closely than they have ever done before.”

Based at the Central St Martins building in King’s Cross, the CIF already claims over 200 founder supporters, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Penguin Random House, The Economist and the V&A. Design consultancies Brand Union, The Beautiful Meme and Made by Many are also supporters, as is Framestore. “We believe that there are financial, curatorial, talent and resource benefits in the different subsections of the creative industries working together,” Kampfner says, stressing that beyond the “greater good” argument, the CIF must deliver tangible benefits to members.

The CIF’s activities will centre around three main areas: advocacy, research and networking. Both Sorrell and Kampfner have enviable political contacts, evidenced by the attendance of senior figures from all three major parties at the launch. Arguing the case for arts education to both government and opposition is likely to be high up CIF’s advocacy agenda.

“For commercial creative companies, including those that are doing well now, they can look at their bottom line and say ‘yes we are doing fine’ but the more enlightened CEOs understand that if we don’t invest both societally and financially in our creative education, then somewhere down the line, they as companies will be screwed,” Kampfner says.

As it will be self-funded, he promises that the CIF will not be in thrall to government. “We certainly don’t want their money,” he says. “We expect that when we are pursuing policies and initiatives we will be in to see them, but there will be nothing cosy in the relationship. It will be rough and tough…. We will not have a supplicant relationship with government: government needs the creative industries as much as the creative industries need government. It’s what defines the UK when ministers go round the world.”

But as well as its external-facing role, the CIF will place equal emphasis on what the creative industries can do for themselves. “A lot of what we want to do is talking to ourselves: are we good enough? Are we creatively supporting each other? Are we doing enough for education, access, diversity? A lot of what we plan to do is hold ourselves to account.”

Beginning in Gateshead in April, the CIF will be holding 12 regional roadshows around the country, as well as regular London events, to fulfil its networking role. Here, Kampfner argues, the CIF’s position as an umbrella organisation will have real benefits for members: “The idea is both to discuss policy and to get people in a room who would otherwise not meet.”

The CIF, he hopes, will have “many thousands” of members, from “CEOs to directors of arts organisations, vice chancellors of universities through to the individual potter, gamer or cellist.” Membership fees are tiered based on turnover and there are different rates for not-for-profit organisations versus commercial companies and individuals.
The idea is not to replace single sector bodies like the Design Council, DBA or IPA. “If government, for example, has a campaign it wishes to do with architects, we would encourage them to talk to Riba,” Kampfner says. “We are not there to duplicate the efforts of specialists in their sector. We are trying to be the glue, bringing together all the sectors, finding commonality and common interests.”

It’s a hugely ambitious plan but one that feels like its time has come. Silos within the creative industries are breaking down while almost every kind of organisation now has a creative director or design department. It’s certainly something that we recognise here at CR, hence our repositioning over the next year to reflect creativity in a broader sense than just visual communications.

The UK creative industries are growing to such an extent that their economic contribution can no longer be ignored by Whitehall, despite government’s continued emphasis on sectors such as engineering and manufacturing. But there are huge challenges to confront, particularly over education, access and diversity. With Sorrell and Kampfner’s ability to reach those in positions of influence, along with the other members of the board, perhaps the CIF represents the creative industries’ best chance of getting its voice heard and of being organised enough to help itself.

What does Kampfner feel would represent success five years from now? “The external parameter will be that we will have scored some direct policy hits, both to government and to ourselves, that may not have happened had it not been for the sectors coming together,” he says. “The internal success parameter will be that people will wonder what life was like before the CIF existed.”

More at The CIF identity (left) was designed by Domenic Lippa and Dan Cottrell at Pentagram


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