Creating a fortress mentality

Once again, the annual conferences of the two main parties, when not focussing on their own navels or being obsessed with the perception of their commitment to Brexit, have failed to address the place the fastest growing sector in the economy should have in their visions for the future.

AI has been talking to a company called Stufish, a design business that creates the extravanganza rock tours that supergroups now compete to surpass. It has worked for the Rolling Stones, U2, Pink Floyd (Stufish designed the current V&A exhibition), Tina Turner, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Stufish is also an architectural practice that is designing buildings in China ranging from museums and theatres to a shopping mall. It is a multi-million pound earning concern for the UK economy which is based in London, close to St Pancras for easy access to Paris and Europe, and the music and theatre industries, architecture and art schools, that it feeds on for its talent and its clients. It has never received a penny of subsidy, and is not contemplating leaving its Bloomsbury base.

But Stufish is burgeoning. Four years ago it had to double the size of its HQ. Two years ago it opened a development centre on the Dordogne. This year it opened an office in Hong Kong to deal with the infinite promise of the Far Eastern market – not just China but Singapore and Indonesia too. If it had to, Stufish could easily step away from Fortress UK before the portcullis comes down, a devastating loss creatively and economically.

And Stufish is one of hundreds of creative companies watching Brexit negotiations and the main parties’ handling of them with increasing anxiety.

The silence of Labour and Conservative alike in their annual showcases has dismayed John Kampfner of the Creative Industries Federation. Mrs May described British business as the envy of the world but, as Kampfner says, “provided no new detail that will reassure those businesses that the government has a grip on the Brexit process”. He goes on: “Our arts and overall creative endeavour are central to the UK's global image. They are at the heart of the regeneration of towns and cities… they form the bedrock of the country's future success”.

Have those stacking up the barricades noticed? Apparently not.

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