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Diane Banks: Creative Economy Panel at the Big Tent Ideas Festival


I was privileged to be asked to chair a panel on the importance of the creative industries to the UK’s economy at this year’s Big Tent Ideas Festival last Saturday with the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan, Arts Council CEO Darren Henley, Eliza Easton, Head of Policy for NESTA’s Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre and Annie Lydford, Director of Communications at the Creative Industries Federation.

Now in its third year, the Big Tent Ideas Festival is the brainchild of MP for Mid Norfolk George Freeman. Its purpose is to bring people from all sides of the political spectrum together to discuss pressing issues in turbulent times. It was held at Mudchute Park and Farm, a wonderful green oasis on the Isle of Dogs in the shadow of Canary Wharf, comprising nine tents with different themes, as well as plenty of food and drink stalls and entertainment. The programme featured several big names, ranging from members of the cabinet to Extinction Rebellion, and it was encouraging to see so many people dedicate their Saturday to debate crucial issues of our times.

Advocating the value of the creative economy is something I feel passionately about. The creative industries have grown 53% GVA (gross value added) since 2010: twice the rate of the economy as a whole and faster than much revered digital sector. On top of that, employment in the creative sector has grown three times faster than the national average in the past seven years. As the Creative Industries Federation has highlighted, the sector is now bigger than automotive, life sciences, oil and gas and aerospace combined in the UK.

All this in an era when traditional industries are under threat, whether from automation, environmental concerns, destructive shifts in the consumer-producer balance or a combination of these factors. Human capital – stories, ideas, personalities, opinion and the ability to curate – will be at the top of the value chain within a matter of years. This capital is impervious to automation and, as intellectual property, is scalable across the vast array of new media which has emerged recently.

This trend is replicated throughout the world but is particularly prevalent in the UK, with its globally recognised soft power, English language and rich cultural history making its content highly exportable. And the notion of the creative economy as progressive isn’t new. In 1964, the very first Arts Minister Jennie Lee said of her new role: ‘All the others deal with people’s sorrows … I have been called the minister of the future.’

And yet – too many policy makers see the creative industries as a ‘nice to have.’ The panel came together to address this.

We touched on investment in the sector, including sector deals, research & development, access to finance and digital infrastructure; skills pipeline (education, careers strategy,

attracting international talent); the advantages which the UK can exploit to form international trade deals and partnerships, and the framework of regulation – codes of practice, issues around intellectual property ownership – which needs to be in place to maximise the potential of our creative industries.

Encouragingly (though perhaps boringly for the audience!), all of the panel were in broad agreement. Kudos to Nicky for joining us just six weeks into her role, and we look forward to working with her on the ideas discussed.

Diane Banks is Founder & CEO of Northbank Talent Management.

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