Call for free internet ‘cultural library’ for UK

17 February 2015

A year-long inquiry into Britain’s creative industries has called for a free digital space for people to access the country’s vast culture among a host of recommendations to safeguard the future of the sector.

A major report, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth, argues that culture and creativity is vital to Britain’s social and economic future, with it representing five per cent of the UK economy at £76.9 billion in 2013.

But the report’s authors, the Warwick Commission - a collaboration between a specially invited group of cultural leaders and the University of Warwick – has found austerity and an emphasis in schools on science, maths and English, threatens the delicate ecosystem that has made Britain a world leader in cultural production like film, arts, TV, advertising and design, and which attracts international students, tourists and investors to boost the country’s economy.

To maintain Britain’s cultural pre-eminence across the world the report calls for investment in a free digital space in the country’s broadband to access the wealth of art, film, TV, design and literature the country has produced.

Among its other recommendations is a Government-led cultural national policy; an annual investment summit; and a ‘board bank’, where cultural and creative organisations can gain a board member with commercial knowledge.

Warwick Commission chairman Vikki Heywood, who is also chairman of the Royal Society of Arts, said: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Unless the challenges to the Cultural and Creative Industries identified by this report are recognised and addressed, we will not maintain this high international regard Britain has or be able to compete artistically and commercially with other world players.

“The key message from this report is that the Government and the Cultural and Creative Industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life. There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.”

One measure to address this is to create a Digital Public Space (DiPS), which would become a free ‘cultural library’ on the internet where everyone is empowered to assume their full and fulfilling role as digital cultural consumers, regardless of skill level, ability, status or income.

Commission member Jonothan Neelands, Professor of Creative Education at WBS, said: “The workforce in the Cultural and Creative Industries sector is growing more than four times faster than the UK’s workforce as a whole and we believe a coherent approach to it is a vital national priority.

“There are concerns that the fragmentation of Government policy and strategy means that public spending is not being maximised and used to leverage additional sources of investment. While tax incentives are a very welcome boost, there are also concerns that the UK is not investing enough in building a sustainable infrastructure for the Cultural and Creative Industries' ecosystem.”

To help secure greater investment in the Cultural and Creative Industries sector the Commission also recommends:

•             An annual investment summit of the relevant businesses and organisations should be held to share best practice in delivering economic, artistic and social value, including international value for the UK, and to identify wide-ranging investment opportunities.

•             A ‘board bank’ should be set up by the Creative Industries Council and Creative Industries Federation that creates a pool of potential board members with commercial knowledge to join Cultural and Creative Industries organisations in receipt of public funding.

•             The Government departments for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), and Education (DfE) should produce a national plan for the publicly funded arts, culture and heritage sector to: secure the investment needed for sustainable creative and economic success; diversify the workforce at all levels sustained by an effective pipeline of talent and skills; and to build demand for full participation in a cultural life that celebrates the UK’s diversity and artistic richness.

•             Publicly funded organisations must be supported and incentivised to develop the business skills and enterprise needed to access additional funding streams and maximise their commercial potential. This includes board members and senior executives having commercial knowledge and access to appropriate training and development.

To view the full report, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growt, click here.

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