Creative mayoralties

The deadline for submissions to the government’s new industrial strategy is today and the Creative Industries Federation has got its oar in for the arts and creativity just in time. The Fed wants creative enterprise zones, a business booster network and a creative careers campaign to set right the negative careers advice being given on the sector.

The Fed’ s John Kampfner says in his submission that it has been a common political ploy to dismiss the creative industries as lightweight, while happily raking in the income from the likes of War Horse, Sherlock and Slumdog Millionaire. That has to change: there are almost three million jobs in the sector, he says in his blueprint, a rise of more than 5% between 2014 and 2015

The Fed may be pushing at an open door because the industry secretary, Greg Clark, having already said at the Fed’s birthday party in January that the creative industries were “absolutely central” to his thinking. “In my view” he said “it is impossible to separate London’s economic success from its cultural success, from theatre to architecture from music to fashion from design to dance”, the one thing is probably in agreement with Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, who is putting the arts and creative industries at the forefront of his post-Brexit strategy.

In the current AI Khan’s deputy for culture, Justine Simons, says that cultural policy has moved from “being a niche thing into the mainstream”, and that her job standing at the shoulder of the mayor is “embedding culture into everything else we do”.

But is the rest of the country in tune with Kampfner, Clark and Khan? Next month there are to be mayoral elections for new satraps in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Tees Valley, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and West of England, with a seventh in Sheffield being voted on next year. One of those likely to be elected, Andy Burnham, is a former culture secretary.

These new mayors, whose writ will run over large tracts, could and should preside over new powerbases that will be able to challenge central government in key policy areas, and for too long the creative regional light has been hidden under bushels of the likes of transport, housing and healthcare. To have credibility with the extra-European trading partner they hope to link up with they will have to do what Khan and Simons already are and push creativity and its potential to the front of their portfolios, and they should figure large in their election manifestos. It is not just the earning power, which is immense, but the expectation of both their constituents now and their business counterparts. “All big cities now know that if they want to be successful they can’t do it without culture” says Justine Simons, who is also chair of the World Cities Culture Forum. “They have to have culture at the heart of their strategy”.

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