The global OpenStreetMap convention is coming to Birmingham, England, 6th-8th September 2013.
Map-makers might also be interested to know that The Society of Cartographers annual conference and summer school will be in Stoke-on-Trent, near Birmingham, on the 2nd-4th September 2013. Lots of Stoke & Staffordshire -specific mapping talks on the programme, plus a map illustrator’s surgery.
What is going on with this dud of a new Culture Minister? Now she wants to take arts and crafts out of the cultural industries definitions.
“Two television series set in the West Midlands have had to be filmed in London and Manchester because of the region’s meagre production resources.”
I also hear that the forthcoming Peaky Blinders series, set among the 1920s rough youth gangs of Birmingham, used mostly Northern actors trying to do a Brummie accent (and, according to my source, failing).
NESTA has just released a new Manifesto for the Creative Economy…
“UK policymakers too have failed to keep pace with [creative industries] developments in North America and parts of Asia. But it is not too late to refresh tired policies.”
It doesn’t seem aimed at influencing the government Spending Review (2015-16) which is now heaving itself toward a June completion. It seems more about briefing the relatively new Culture Minister (Maria Miller, in post for six months and floundering badly), and shaping the policies of whoever wins the General Election in 2015. As such it’s far more substantial than the “Manifesto” title suggests, weighing in at 128 pages, and with a wodge of tiny footnotes at the end. It opens with a useful summary of the UK’s post-1997 creative industries policies and various reactions to them among politicians and vested interests, and follows this up with a overview of the confusions over the UK’s creative industries employment statistics. A breakout page here summarises interesting recent research done in Brighton, which seems to show just how little creative industries business activity shows up at the level of national statistics…
“researchers have identified over 1,500 creative and digital media businesses in Brighton, and have used these companies’ SIC [UK tax] codes to study the extent to which the current DCMS [UK government] industrial classifications cover the sector. Only just over one quarter (27.2 per cent) of them are covered by the DCMS’s classification.”
The researchers also looked at…
“…the activities of the 60 respondents in the two software–related SIC codes [UK tax codes, recently] dropped by DCMS [from the cultural industries statistics], we find video games studios, web designers and developers, social network marketing companies, and digital agencies which combine technology and design capabilities to offer advertising and marketing services, and even BAFTA nominees.”
The local aspects of the UK response to creative clusters are addressed on pp.58-62…
“There have been many place–based interventions aimed at creating entrepreneurial networks where wider informal learning can take place. Universities have also tried to nurture some of these creative clusters, not least by providing incubators and facilities for creative start–ups and spin–outs. The track record of these initiatives is patchy to say the least.” [...] importing “templates for ‘cookie cutter’ creative clusters and cities in some parts of the UK, with returns which are, as yet, far from clear.”
“the challenges of shoehorning creative businesses into mainstream innovation support mechanisms has led to the development of small–scale but more targeted initiatives aimed at encouraging creative innovation. [...] they are fragmented and do not solve the fundamental mismatch between the needs of the creative economy and the approach of mainstream innovation support.” [...] “innovative creative businesses with the greatest growth potential will often be those with the least time to meet [with advisors, or to value generic business advice]“.
“Seeking to take a budding or ‘latent’ creative cluster to its next level is a better idea than trying to spawn one from scratch.” [but] “discrete interventions will rarely be enough to support sustainable growth in a cluster — it is important to pay attention to the whole system. [what is also needed is to] “develop the dense web of networks that are conducive to clusters, innovation and growth” [while] “it is important to minimise the risk of capture by local vested interests”.
University of Derby conference, 8th-9th November 2013, in Birmingham (UK). Covering…
“…interdisciplinary dialogue concerned with the metaphysical properties of geography in the broadest sense [and will] explore the complex space between the physical and hypothetical realms within creative practice.”
Further information from Vered Lahav at: email@example.com
A strong article in yesterday’s Birmingham Post newspaper, with deep facts and figures on the BBC’s systematic disprivileging of Birmingham and the Midlands.
“Midland viewers pay £912.3 million in licence fees each year — but the BBC spends just £100 million here from a total budget of £4.1 billion.”
“The corporation produced a report called The Economic Value of the BBC in January [which showed that] in terms of expenditure, the West Midlands suffered the biggest fall in the two years to 2012, at 21.7 per cent.”
There’s an important new free report from the Royal Society of Arts, Disrupt Inc. (March 2013). Here’s what I took from it…
This qualitative report interviewed many young under-30 entrepreneurs, who strongly criticised the UK’s business advice industry’s approach to supporting small startups. Especially the standard advisor routine of: have a chat; write a 20-page business plan; get a start-up finance loan; attend some training talks; find an older semi-retired business mentor; and join the local Chamber of Commerce. By the end of the first year of trading, often at a critical time when they are considering taking on an employee or two, many young under-30 entrepreneurs find themselves left without much support. Large numbers cease trading after one year, something that other nations don’t have a problem with on the same scale.
The RSA also notes another report from the Sutton Trust, which shows that older mentors can do more harm than good. They question the need for older mentors in many cases…
“the deafening noise [from the mushrooming salaried advice industry] about the importance of having experienced mentors distracts us from supporting all those young people who prefer informal assistance from peers.”
The RSA finds that most young people are not in tune with the fossilised ‘cocktails and dinner suits’ middle-class mindset, something which still permeates many local business membership groups and which effectively acts as a class barrier.
Many young people prefer to build their business slowly “on a shoestring” — finding a way forward in the market with the aid of their peers, incrementally adapting prototypes, product ranges, and marketing over time.
The report also criticises the stale and off-putting “language and imagery of entrepreneurship” which permeates the advice industry’s training materials and publications. “Challenging crude stereotypes” will be key part of a necessary “re-engineering [of] enterprise support” says the RSA.
There are many other excellent changes suggested in the report. Along with reasons why these are needed sooner than later, such as the UK facing strong competition from around the world. For example, in the USA 14% of all under-30s are now actively engaged in their own “early stage entrepreneurial activity”. Even with all the help currently on offer here, only 3.6% of the UK’s under-30s are doing so.
“Britain’s 228,000 online retailers already export more than the rest of Europe’s e-retailers put together” — UKTI, March 2013.
Good to hear that the old Children’s Film Foundation films are finally to be rescued from cultural oblivion…
“The British Film Institute recently acquired the complete [Children's Film] Foundation collection and plans to release many of its films on DVD.”
Two DVDs so far, London Tales and The Race Is On. Weird Adventures follows in June 2013.
PDF brochure now online for The Arts & Science Festival, 18th to 24th March 2013 at the University of Birmingham. A ton of programming in there, but on a quick flick through I especially noted public lectures which include…
* The Life and Times of William Hutton: Birmingham’s first historian 1723-1815.
* Epic Win: the Ancient World in videogames.
Hopefully there will be podcast recordings online after the event.
A new pre-budget report, published by the Local Government Association (LGA): Driving growth through local government investment in the arts. The headline claim is that…
“for every £1 spent by councils on the arts, leverage from grant aid and partnership working brings up to £4 in additional funding”
Which implicitly suggests that many Councils know this, but are grandstanding on their arts cuts in order to grab a few government-bashing headlines — only to then revoke the threat a few months later. That’s already happened in a number of places, including Stoke.
I suspect the target of the report is not the Chancellor, but those dimmer local councillors who may be tempted to rush to their Council chambers the day after the budget — ready to swing a financial chainsaw in the direction of anything that looks like “arts”.
The Department for Communities and Local Government states that “cultural” spend by local councils in England fell 7.8% in the year 2011-12. Although bear in mind that for the DCMS “cultural” can include things like sport and general leisure as well as the arts. So my guess would be that the closure of a few big swimming pools or indoor football pitches may be distorting the picture in some places? Some local councils do seem to be radically trimming their educational provision funding for museums, though, presumably hoping that the museums will make it up through sponsorship instead.
Oxford Economics report, The Economic Impact of the UK
Film Industry, from Sept 2012. Interesting to read there (on page 30) that the West Midlands share of national “core” film industry employment was the largest in the UK, at 7.2% in 2011.
Sounds nice, but sadly there was a footnote giving the explanation of the oddly high figure, from the Office of National Statistics. They seem to imply there that the 7.2% was just a statistical “blip” caused by some jiggery-pokery in the ONS computers…
“the increase [to 7.2%] is caused by a return that was not sampled in the previous year and had a higher level of employment than expected.”
The self-employment element of this figure was also an “estimate”, according to the body of the report.
Futura is a new one-day science-fiction convention (literature oriented, not TV-and-Trek), which will be running at the Light House in Wolverhampton on Saturday 15th June 2013…
“A £25 ticket will get you access to a range of activities from 11am-late, including reading, panels, Q+A sessions, our fabulous book market and much more. Guest of Honour line-up: Ken Macleod, Adam Roberts, and Ian R. Macleod”.
No news yet of when tickets go on sale.
Birmingham University busts a popular doomist myth…
“The idea that the supply of breakthrough [medical] drugs in the UK is drying up is a myth, researchers from Birmingham University reported in BMJ Open. In fact … the opposite seems to be the case”
Labour actually have some policies, shock! Yesterday they unveiled a “five-point plan” for the Arts and Creative Industries. Not to be confused with a creaky old socialist Five Year Plan, comrade.
* Anti-piracy. Which had so little success when Labour were in power, despite being driven forward by a whip-wielding Peter Mandelson. Ah, but this time it’ll have added… “regulation and [will] have a bit of toughness”. That sounds to me like they anticipate hanging our civil liberties from the nearest lamp-posts. Again.
* “Enabling crowd-funding for loans to support start-ups”. Fine, but isn’t the private sector working quite efficiently there? Given Labour’s utterly dismal record on stimulating public philanthropy when in office, one hopes they’re just thinking about simple legal changes (to enable things like equity crowd-funding in the UK, something which the USA’s legislators are currently working on and the present government will no doubt copy in due course). But this is tax-and-spend Labour, so I’d have to suspect that they sniff tax income from slapping licensing regulations and taxes on crowd-funding.
* A very vague… “focus on young people from pre-school to university and internships”. Worthy, but you have to remember just how badly Labour messed up education and universities when they had control, and allowed our skills base to decline. Given the strap-on mention of internships, and Labour Yoof’s preaching about the subject over the last two years, I’m guessing Labour might have in mind some new nanny-state regulations around arts internships. Although that’s all fairly moot, now the current government’s Creative Employment Programme is underway and aiming have 6,500 paid arts apprentices within two years.
There was also a welcome pledge for a school curriculum… “which has arts and creativity running through it”. Worthy 1, but let’s remember that it was under Labour that schools saw creativity stifled with bureaucracy and targets, heavy-handed inspections, tick-box testing and statistics fraud, and a curriculum that was systematically dumbed-down. Not to mention Labour’s deliberate erasure of most adult evening-courses at local colleges — under Labour adult education in England & Wales lost 1.5 million course places in 2006-2008, and many more before that. In higher education, Labour presided over a precipitous decline in funding for arts and humanities departments in universities.
* Funding to ensure “that the Arts Council is well supported and funded” under “a strong central government department”. No sign of reform there of the Arts Council or the DCMS. Business as usual, and with what sounds like with a nice big trough of taxpayer-squeezed juice to sup from. Plus a “focus on the regions”, which might seem to imply beefing up the slimmed down regional Arts Council offices. In that regional context, let’s remember it was Labour which completely cut adrift local council arts funding, by cancelling all the arts match-funding agreements with local councils.
* A move toward “supporting exports abroad”, in which “all UK embassies should be showrooms for our cultural industries”. But William Hague has already commanded all British Embassies to covert themselves into UK export trade showcases. Short of installing cinemas in our embassy basements, it’s difficult to imagine what more could be done. Certainly Labour’s record on creative industries export drives isn’t stellar. Remember that it was Labour that disbanded all the British Council’s specialist arts departments, abolished its advisory panels involving real creatives, and for good measure also closed the Council’s film department. Although that last move was probably wise, given Labour’s dismal record on promoting the production of exportable hit films.
No Labour promise not to go till-dipping into the National Lottery. It’s perhaps useful to remember that money going to the arts generally from the Lottery dropped by £82m between 1997 and 2006, as the Labour government pillaged and pilfered from Lottery funds. That was before Labour’s March 2007 announcement, as the nation’s money ran out, that they would actually cut £62m from Arts Lottery funds. In that same period (2007-2010) Labour cuts wiped out nearly all the gains made in grants to museums and galleries under the denuded Lottery (and those institutions had by then already seen Labour hack their acquisition budgets back to almost nothing).
- I think Gove was wrong to effectively allow his educational changes to encourage target-watching headteachers to crowd-out drama / arts / design in schools, and I hope he wasn’t influenced in that by a few boorish “anti- Media Studies” Tories… but that’s all back on the drawing-board now, and hopefully sense will prevail. ↩