£1.57 billion, eh? Congratulations and thank you to all who campaigned and shouted and marched and protested and generally rabble-roused on behalf of us all.
Of course, we still don’t know the actual details of this or any of the government’s other grand schemes – why bother with the troublesome details when you’ve already grabbed the headlines?
And it won’t actually go that far when you divide it between all of the arts organisations and arts workers in the country. But it’s definitely better than nothing. And it does definitely show the power of speaking up and not letting yourselves get put down. We are quite good at both.
The danger, though, is that we take this as a triumph for this kind of campaigning. And then do nothing to be better prepared for next time. Which is what happened last time.
Last time, in this context, was the discussions with the EU about how its new Ecodesign regulations would affect show lighting and so, potentially, the entertainment industry as a whole. Remember that? How trivial it now seems.
Without one loud, clear voice, there’s a risk you end up with a jumble of overlapping voices, each saying the same thing in a different way
But it’s relevant because towards the end of that campaigning, we identified that a key problem was the lack of a single voice representing all of our industry. (There was also the complication of identifying exactly what we meant by ’our industry’ - theatre? Live events? Film and TV as well? All of the creative industries, a bigger group but with that much-quoted £111 billion figure attached to it?)
Without such an over-arching organisation – one with a loud, clear voice, a mandate (and funding) to represent the overall interests of everyone, and ideally a direct line to Downing Street - there’s a high risk that you end up with a jumble of overlapping voices, each saying much the same thing in a slightly different way. The danger is that this just becomes noise, hard to hear, and easy for anyone who doesn’t care just to ignore.
About a year ago – though it feels like longer – we tried to get everyone involved with that campaign into a room to talk about the value of this idea, and whether an existing organisation (such as the Creative Industries Federation) could or would want to step up to this role. But as so often happened in normal times, we all got busy, and perhaps felt that the issue that had triggered all this had been resolved. It never went further.
A shame, it turns out, because that one loud clear voice that speaks for us all, already on duty rather than having to be formed from scratch, would have been invaluable now. And since we’re learning that we never know what the future will bring, chances are it will be useful for whatever unpredictable event hits us next.
So maybe now is the time for all of us, particularly those latest campaigners fresh from their triumph and perhaps full of new ideas, to use this little post-lockdown, pre-reopening window to start those discussions again?