A manifesto for the creative industries

With the general election just six weeks away, the Creative Industries Federation has published a manifesto outlining how political parties can help nurture and grow the UK’s creative sector. Recommendations include a new visa system for skilled workers and better careers guidance for young people

With Brexit, immigration and the NHS dominating the news, it’s unlikely that the creative industries will be a key focus for the UK’s political parties in the run-up to next month’s general election. But the Creative Industries Federation has today published a manifesto urging leaders to take action to support and protect the creative sector.

The manifesto puts forward ten recommendations. These include introducing a new visa system “that recognises the needs of fast-growing, world leading and highly innovative sectors” and launching a nationwide campaign to promote creative careers in schools. It also proposes doubling the number of creative companies that export by the end of the next Parliament.

In a statement announcing its manifesto, the Creative Industries Federation claims that the creative industries will be key to driving growth in a post-Brexit Britain. “The sector is the fastest growing part of the UK’s economy, contributing £87bn in GVA. It returns four times the GVA of the automotive industry, six times as much as life sciences and nearly 10 times that of aerospace. Between 2011 and 2015, it created three times more jobs than the economy as a whole,” it says.

Louise Jury, director of communications and strategy at the Creative Industries Federation, says the manifesto is based on research and policy work carried out by the organisation since its launch in 2014. In October last year, it published a report looking at the potential impact of Brexit and another calling for an industrial strategy for the creative industries.

“We held around a dozen meetings on Brexit last year so we have a very clear understanding of what the issues are there,” she says. “And when the government announced they were going to have a consultation on industrial strategy, we had another ten meetings – we held them from Plymouth to Edinburgh, from Swansea to Cardiff and Norwich, so across the entire country.”

Jury says requests outlined in the manifesto are based on the issues that matter most to the Creative Industries Federation’s members – proposals that “would genuinely deliver growth both for the sector and for the economy” if acted upon by politicians.

Recommendations are aimed at helping creatives and businesses access funding and export markets as well as improving creative education. “There is all kinds of work that could be done that would benefit both creative workers and businesses but also the country as a whole, which is why it seems sensible to present them to all political parties as they’re preparing for the election,” she adds.

Proposals also aim to address some of the challenges that creatives might face post-Brexit, such as recruiting skilled workers. “Brexit brings a lot of issues to a head – there have been concerns in large parts of the creative sector about what’s happening in schools and that’s not new, but the point about Brexit is that some of the skills shortages in the creative sector and elsewhere that have been masked by ready access to talented EU workers will become problematic in future if we don’t have access to talented workers from elsewhere in the same way. It’s ever more important that we identify ways to give our own young people the right mix of creative and technical skills,” says Jury.

The Creative Industries Federation is now in talks with each of the UK’s political parties about the ideas put forward in its manifesto and hopes the document will prompt leaders to recognise both the cultural importance and economic value of the creative sector when drawing up policies and preparing for a future outside of the EU.

“The arts are very important in and of themselves but the creative economy is incredibly valuable for the country as a whole … and no political party should be going in to the election without a proper set of policies that recognise the value of the creative sector,” adds Jury.

Here are the Creative Industries Federation’s ten recommendations for government:

1. Ensure that the creative industries and arts are a priority sector in Brexit negotiations

Federation members were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU for very practical reasons. The sector will be particularly vulnerable if we do not get right all the key issues in negotiations, among them movement of talent and intellectual property (IP).

2. Prioritise the creative industries in a new visa system

Our visa system was built for an industrial landscape that no longer exists. We need a 21st century model that recognises the needs of fast-growing, world-leading and highly innovative sectors, including science, tech and the creative industries.

3. Double the number of creative companies that export by the end of the next Parliament

Trade strategies are currently geared toward larger enterprises, whereas the creative industries are primarily made up of small and micro businesses. The sector accounted for 9% of total exports of services from the UK in 2014, valued at £20bn – an underestimate. With the right support, exports could be far higher, offering economic stability to a post-Brexit Britain.

4. Introduce creative enterprise zones

The success of the creative industries can and must be harnessed to deliver growth and regeneration across the UK. Government should extend the roll-out of enterprise zones to cover the creative industries. Areas that axe or severely reduce arts funding would be ineligible.

5. Establish a creative industries ‘business booster’ network

Freelancers, microbusinesses and SMEs – the backbone of the creative industries – often struggle to access finance and support around intellectual property and exports at the early, often risky stage of development. A national centre, based outside London and with a regional network, to provide advice on these issues is needed to ensure the creative industries continue to grow apace.

6. Set up a creative skills commission

The creative industries face significant skills shortages because we have failed to prepare young people in education and training. The commission would report within six months on practical measures to defuse the skills time bomb and better equip the next generation for 21st century life.

7. Launch a creative careers campaign

Careers guidance must be transformed. Government should lead on a creative careers campaign to correct inadequate information about potential careers in the creative industries and open up access to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Better, inspirational advice would go some way towards solving the skills crisis in the creative industries and in others that rely heavily on creative skills, such as manufacturing.

8. Limit ‘outstanding’ to schools that warrant it

Creative employment is resistant to automation, and adapting to the future jobs landscape will demand creative skills. Securing a workforce fit for the 21st century begins at school. A school must teach at least one creative subject, in lesson time, in order to be eligible for an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted.

9. Maintain and inflation-proof existing national and local investment in culture and the arts

Modest public investment in the arts not only supports our world-beating public institutions but provides cross-fertilisation for the commercial sector in talent and ideas.

10. Maintain and increase the growth of the creative industries

Over the past five years, the sector has grown by 34% – the fastest growing part of the UK’s economy. Government should commit to maintaining and increasing this pace of growth by 2022 for the sake not only of the sector, but of the wider economy too. This could take the GVA of the sector to an impressive £120bn.

More information about the Creative Industries Federation is available at creativeindustriesfederation.com

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