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Bazalgette review urges UK creative industries to boost regional growth

Peter Bazalgette Peter Bazalgette. Photo: Philippa Gedge
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Peter Bazalgette has argued that the UK is “failing to harness” the creative talents it should be developing by being too focused on London and the South East.

In a major review of the creative industries which he has penned, the former Arts Council England chair stresses that the creative industries will only thrive in a global market if the nations and regions are better nurtured.

To do this, he proposes the creation of a £500 million fund to grow ‘creative clusters’ across the UK, developing the creative economy to its full potential.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and published on September 22, estimates that the creative industries could create one million new jobs by 2030 and deliver close to £130 billion for the economy by 2025.

In order to achieve these forecasts, Bazalgatte claims the UK cannot be complacent about its successes to date and urges the government to have a “fundamental understanding” of the importance of the creative industries to its future strategy.

He argues that the UK must develop creative clusters in all corners of the country if it is to stay one step ahead of its competitors.

He says: “The positive story of the UK Creative Industries to date has been achieved despite unequal distribution of opportunities, skills, finance and knowledge, with about half of the growth and jobs in the sector centred in London and the South East. This should be celebrated. It is not that London is too big but that other centres are too small. We are failing to harness the creative talents of all our communities.”

A London-centric approach to the arts, and specifically theatre, has long been criticised, with the industry arguing to funding, jobs and opportunities are too heavily skewed towards the capital.

Bazalgette suggests that regional growth is prioritised through a model similar to the existing City Deal programme – agreements between government and individual cities, giving them special powers and freedoms to help support local economic growth and jobs.

His plan includes a £500 million Creative Clusters fund, awarded to areas that can compete for status and support to become Key Creative Clusters.

A creative cluster is a geographical concentration of creative businesses and workers that collaborate and compete to support their shared sector.

Under Bazalgette’s plans, 30 to 35 individual clusters could be supported by the fund, with each using its status to leverage additional public and provide investment.

These are intended to cover all creative industries sub-sectors, including theatre and performing arts.

Bazalgette’s recommendations also include creating an ‘attraction strategy’ for careers in the creative industries, which would include a communications campaign, online advice and curriculum materials to “broaden and deepen the talent pipeline that starts at school”.

He also says the sector should work with universities and creative clusters on a creative leadership scheme to create a network of highly skilled leaders.

Welcoming the report, the Creative Industries Federation, which was consulted by Bazalgette as part of the review process, said it particularly supported the idea for a creative careers campaign.

“The Creative Careers Campaign idea included in our Blueprint for Growth submitted to government in April of this year remains a key part of the our strategy. It will be an effective tool to highlight the hidden career options within the creative industries for those with a variety of skills.”

John Kampfner, the organisation’s chief executive, added that it was essential to acknowledge the importance of international workers post-Brexit.

“It is essential Brexit and its implications are a considered when determining how best to support the sector’s continued growth. We must be able to continue to attract the international talent the creative workforce needs,” he said.

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