Last week I was ticked off by the brilliant @annemcelvoy on Twitter for being one of the politicians who habitually, she claimed, started tweets with the expression ‘Great to see . . .’ followed by the name of whatever news or achievement we were harmlessly trying to promote. She felt that I, and fellow perpetrators of this simple device intended to make the most of the 140 character straight-jacket imposed by Twitter, should face ‘terrible punishment’ for deploying such a weary cliché.
So may I begin this blog by declaring that I am very pleased indeed to see the new statistics, published today on the continuing success of our creative industries, and the impact that success is having on the UK as part of our long-term economic plan.
We now know, for example, that the creative industries accounted for 1.71m jobs in 2013 (an increase of 278,000 jobs since 2009). While the Gross Value Added in 2013 – that’s the economic measure of its value to the economy as a whole – was an eye-watering £76.9bn. We also now know that, in 2012 the total value of exports of services from the creative industries came in at around £17.3bn, almost 9 per cent of total UK service exports.
2014 ‘A Spectacular Year’
This is very good news. Great to see, in fact. Why? Because it confirms what we have long maintained. Creativity is not some will-o’-the-wisp thing that operates to its own rules and conventions, making no measurable impact on the hard reality of the economy. And 2014 was a spectacular year for them, so it feels right to me that I should use my first blog of 2015 to pat tribute to the creative individuals and companies without whom none of this would be possible.
Government meanwhile has done what it should do in this sort of situation: invested where investment was needed, made things easier for businesses in the sector to do what they’re best at, and made real progress in helping to ensure that the industries continue to get the flow of talent into them that specialised training brings. This last point, incidentally, being well illustrated by our announcement last month of the first government-backed National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries.
James Bond and Star Wars
It’s also long been accepted that the tax regime applying to an industry in a particular country is a crucial factor in location. The Irish government took full advantage of this at the end of the last century. So rather than lament this as something we had no control over, the Government decided to do something about it. So, from August video games companies were able to take advantage of the video games tax relief, claiming up to 25 per cent on production costs. And this tax relief will also be extended to children’s programming, giving a much-needed boost to help industry continue to produce great television for that sometimes-overlooked audience.
The success of film making and post-production work in this country in recent years is also telling. It shows how attractive the UK has become to an industry that for decades was pretty well exclusively centred on Southern California. The new UK branch of Lucas Film’s Industrial Light and Magic, for example, speaks volumes for the quality of British film production, while Pinewood Studios and Warner Brothers Leavesden continue to do wonderfully well. The next Bond and Star Wars films will be made here and that alone is an extraordinary testament to the UK’s success, I think.
In the music industry it would be hard to have missed the emergence of One Direction. But they are just one of the British success stories here. In fact the UK’s top ten albums of 2014 were all by British artists, for the first time.
So we’ve got a lot to shout about in this country and today’s figures illustrate how far our national creative flair has come. The future is looking very bright indeed.