The UK’s creative industries have never been stronger. British developers are behind some of the world’s bestselling video games, UK architectural companies lead on high-profile projects across the globe, while homegrown films are taking home the most coveted of international industry awards.
But there’s more to the creative industries than Grand Theft Auto developers Rockstar North, Zaha Hadid and 12 Years a Slave. Accounting for 1.7m jobs, contributing 5% of gross value added (GVA) to UK GDP and exporting £17.3bn annually (9% of total service exports), the creative sector outperforms the rest of the UK economy in both growth and job creation.
It’s also hugely diverse, encompassing advertising, architecture, craft, design, fashion, film, television and radio, IT, software, music, the performing and visual arts, publishing, museums, galleries and libraries. Any industry, in fact, with the “potential to generate wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” – a definition from 1998, when the Labour government published the Creative Industries Mapping Document.
This document, the first attempt to measure the sector’s economic contribution to the UK, has itself been one of the major contributing factors to the success of the creative industries.
“They were the first government in the world to recognise it as a proper industrial sector,” explains William Sargent, co-founder and chief executive of Oscar-winning creative studio Framestore. “Now it’s recognised as a significant part of the British economy, so from the government’s point of view, they can articulate an engagement with it, where previously the sectors were seen as separate cottage industries.”
That said, cottage industries still operating at the top of their game and attracting talent from across the globe. “We have a very powerful cluster effect in London,” says Sargent. “Each successful manifestation and niche within the creative industries fed off the fact they were in a physical area with amazing stuff going on, which quite often cross-pollinated.”
Research and development (R&D) funding, tax credits and relationship brokering are just some of the ways that the government has engaged with the sector, creating a supportive ecosystem and facilitating growth in the years since mapping began, says Mehjabeen Price, chief operating officer at Creative England: “The argument over the importance of the creative industries and investment into those industries has been won.”
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