How the arts can put cash in our pockets and secure our economic future
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Arts and culture play an important role in our health and well-being but they are also vital in putting money in our collective pocket. Arts Editor Andrew Clarke says that the new government needs to invest in arts education so we can keep our creative edge.
Creativity is important. It’s important for our well-being but it’s also important for our economy – earning £76.9 billion in 2015. The arts, culture and creativity are a vital part of our economic infrastructure – it’s not just the flag ship West End shows or summer festivals which rely on this, it’s the theatres, concert halls, dance centres and galleries across the country which generate a vast income for us.
The film and television industry also feeds off the skills of actors, writers, musicians, designers, photographers – skilled professionals with a dizzying array of creative skills.
In East Anglia we have a thriving cultural scene. Across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex we have 15 organisations which receive long-term funding (NPOs) because they deliver work of national or international standing but we need to invest in the future.
Last week’s election has thrown this into sharp focus – as have the Brexit talks because the arts have always been international in nature – and we need to safeguard the future or we are in danger of losing our creative and economic advantage.
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International films are shot in Britain because we, not only have the actors to put in front of the camera, we have the studios and technical skills to make things happen – on schedule and on a budget. It’s a great reputation to have but what happens when the current crop of backroom boffins retire or the next generation of actors, dancers or musicians find they are getting a bit thin on the ground?
In the week before the election all the main political parties were quizzed by the creative industries’ in-house journal The Stage about their policies with regard to the arts. Without exception, they all agreed that the arts was incredibly important – both in terms of our health and well-being but also in terms of our economy. But, this reassurance also chimed with alarm bells being rung by independent research groups worried about where future talent was going to come from.
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They were concerned about funding, about training and about creativity in schools. John Sorrell, a designer and chairman of the Creative Industries Federation, said in a speech that creativity has to be nurtured and developed. It doesn’t just appear fully formed from nowhere. He maintained that the new talent has to be encouraged, challenged and stretched. He said that schools must rank creativity alongside numeracy.
He said: “Creative education is central to our nation’s future success. We need a brilliant argument which shows why creativity should stand alongside numeracy and literacy as an attribute every citizen should have.
“Everybody wants their kids to be numerate and literate but if you can’t use your imagination and can’t solve problems you are sadly lacking in key skills for life and work, never mind the joy of using your creativity for a better life. Our children should have all three key attributes: creativity, numeracy and literacy.”
His sentiments were echoed by a report from the University of Warwick: Enriching Britain, Culture, Creativity and Growth – and by Nicholas Hytner, former artistic director of The National Theatre, who says that adding an arts element to the Ebacc would be a way to tackle the fact that schools are overly focussed on science and technology. It would also help build bridges between the technological world and the creative industries, particularly those dealing with sound, lighting and projection, while also feeding a creative desire among the young generation.
He pointed out that the digital revolution has created millions of creative jobs and it was sensible to turn STEM (Science, Technology, English and Maths) into STEAM by adding a generous helping of Arts.
Furthermore, we need to ensure that we invest in realising the talents of all our young people. Arts education should not be a postcode lottery and Arts Council funding should not be seen as subsidy but an investment because as all the parties acknowledged in their interview with The Stage, arts and culture, the creative industries earn this country vast sums of money. We need to keep our talent pool topped up with people from all walks of life, not just those from private schools which continue to invest in the creative arts.
The University of Warwick study adds that Ofsted should not be allowed to award an outstanding rating without evidence of an excellent cultural and creative education programme – which seems ideal.