Saturday, February 23, 2008

Creative Britain - encouraging talent and protecting content in the fine arts?

Yesterday, the UK Government announced a new strategy and comprehensive plan for the creative industries - Creative Britain - New Talents for the Economy PDF (1.2mb). All quotes in this piece are from this document.

The question it raises for me is whether or not it is going to build creativity and protect content in the fine art bit of visual arts that I'm particularly interested in.
Our aim is to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, support the pursuit of excellence, and champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.
A number of things interested me:
  • the recognition being given to the value of the creative sector within the UK economy
  • the proposals - and how these seem to affect the visual arts (or not?)
  • proposals about action on copyright infringement
What are the creative industries?

The Department of Culture Media and Sport defines creative industries
as being
those that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent. They also have the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing and exploiting intellectual property.
The creative industries include advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio.
Some facts:
  • Two million people are employed in creative jobs in the UK
  • creative industries contribute £60 billion a year – 7.3 per cent – to the British economy.
  • in the last ten years, the creative sector has grown at twice the rate of the economy as a whole
Srategic proposals - some highlights

You can read more about the proposals in the document. Some of the government's strategic proposals include
  • a 'find your talent' programme for school children - which could involve visits to art exhibitions and galleries; learning about and making films, digital or new media art or making a piece of visual arts or crafts.
  • the creation of 5,ooo apprenticeships - although none of these appear to be linked in any way with the fine arts.
  • Five new centres of excellence are to be created - most of which seems to be about using new techology. In fact, an awful lot of the document is about how to access and use new technologies better.
  • action to foster and protect intellectual property. This includes a commitment to take action on illegal file sharing by 2009, if industry fails to reach a voluntary solution.
Content protect and action on copyright infringement
We will also explore tougher penalties for copyright infringement. These actions signal the Government’s strong support for the creative industries as we move towards a fully digital world.......The UK-Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) will put into action a plan on intellectual property (IP) enforcement.
Not surprisingly, yesterday the press really latched on to the part relating to the protection of copyright and the downloading of content from the internet - but this seems to be almost wholly focused on digital media which is either music or film - in other words pirate discs and illegal downloads.

I've not as yet spotted any references which suggest enhanced protection for visual art. However (through the wonders of word search in pdf documents), I did note that the document does comment on the issues relating to China and copyright recognition and highlights the work of the European Union Intellectual Property Rights II (IPRII) Project. The Government proposes to work in partnership with Chinese authorities to help them meet the challenges of internet infringement and to help build a network of collecting societies.


Overall, although I've not yet read it in depth from cover to cover, the new strategy appears on reading the summary plus an initial skim to embrace wholeheartedly the music, drama, fashion, digital and animation industries but is less well attuned to the fine arts. Maybe this means that the visual arts are now more about what you can do to produce good animation for the latest games software - and that this is endorsed by the government?

Meanwhile, a separate report by the government's watchdog on school exams was also being reported on yesterday with some national papers suggesting that media studies is a soft option (for example, see "Report on exams reveals the dumbed down subjects"). In fact the study's findings actually say that candidates sitting different subjects have been compared and that media studies students don't achieve the same standards as, for example, those studying English literature. It also notes that 40% of their marks are accounted for by coursework which did not form part of the scope of the review and which the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority recognises requires different sorts of skills. Shame on the Guardian for reporting media studies as 'dumbed down' and not exploring instead how media studies are assessed - especially given this significant new investment by the government announced on the same day!

One final note - I've lost count of the number of times government has used "From the margins to the mainstream" as the title for strategy documents to describe bold innovative change in recent decades. This time it's being used as the title for the associated press release. Speaking personally, my feeling is it doesn't augur well if the department can't even come up with a creative title for its press release!

Finally, I do wonder how all of this fits with the numbers of people, like myself, who begin to involve themselves in the creative sector rather late in the day. I'd like to know whether the support proposed would enable more to make that leap at an earlier stage in their lives and/or whether it is encouraging creative talent in the economy across the age range. I'll be reading the report with interest to find out.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic? If you do leave a comment below.


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