By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Conway: ‘Booming in the UK’This month in London, the Publishers Association has cheered the United Kingdom government’s program devised to drive growth in the market’s creative industries.
Shortly before his trip to the United States and meetings with Joe Biden, the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, opened what’s called the Creative Industries Sector Vision, saying in a statement, “The creative industries are a true British success story, from global music stars such as Adele and Ed Sheeran to world-class cultural institutions such as the National Theatre. These industries have a special place in our national life and make a unique contribution to how we feel about ourselves as a country.
“We want to build on this incredible success to drive growth in our economy—one of my key priorities—and to ensure that UK creative industries continue to lead the world long into the future. Backed up with significant new funding, this ambitious plan will help grow the sector by an extra £50 billion (US$63.5 billion) while creating one million extra jobs by 2030.”
Dan Conway, the Publishers Association CEO, has welcomed the initiative, saying, “It’s great to see the Sector Vision launch, following months of hard work and collaboration between the government, and the UK’s leading creative sector.
“Publishing and the wider creative industries are booming in the UK and play a vital role in driving our economy forward.
“The Sector Vision and the further investment announced by the government is a testament to what the future holds for the creative industries, and the benefits this will bring to the UK. I’m excited to work closely with my peers in the Creative Industries Council [CIC] to put these plans into action, and to help build a strong, inclusive publishing industry, and wider creative sector.”
Faber & Faber chair Stephen Page says, ““The golden thread of education and skills pathways that support careers for all in the creative industries is vital to their continued growth and outstanding success.
“I welcome the Sector Vision’s commitment to building the future workforce our industry needs, with opportunities for people from all backgrounds, and look forward to continued close working between government and industry towards realizing that goal.”
And at Bonnier UK, CEO Perminder Mann says, “I’m incredibly proud of the work that the CIC has put in to support the government in the development of this Sector Vision.
“In particular, I’m confident that the commitment to build a strong and diverse pipeline of talent and skills is the key to delivering sustainable growth across our sector, and I look forward to supporting its delivery.”
While the overall announcement material for the program doesn’t mention the book business as often as it mentions other creative industries–or perhaps as often as publishing’s people might desire–the performing and visual arts, like entertainment, are always easier to use when speaking of the creative industries, of course, and the association is signaling that it’s well onboard with the plan.
The announcement packet includes this definitional list of what the government sees as included in “creative industries”:
- Design and designer fashion
- Television, radio and photography
- Museums, galleries and libraries
- Music, performing and visual arts
- Software and computer services, including video games
Branding, Initiatives, and Programs
A part of the program stands on a previous construct launched in 2018 and called the Creative Industries Clusters Program. That program, less ambitious, foresaw investments of £120 million over five years in collaborative research-and-cultural-development programs that take advantage of industry concentrations in nine geographic regions. For example, while film, broadcast, and animation work was found to be concentrated in Northern Ireland, video gaming was seen to have a focus in Scotland (Dundee), while screen and performance industries were grouped in England’s West Country around Bath and Bristol, and in southwest England.
“Publishing and the wider creative industries are booming in the UK and play a vital role in driving our economy forward.”Dan Conway, Publishers Association
“Collectively,” the government’s material reports, “these research and innovation clusters have generated £252 million of co-investment, engaged over 2,500 businesses and 60 research organizations, trained over 3,500 industry professionals and academics, supported 900 business research and development projects and created or safeguarded more than 4,000 jobs.”
A “Create Growth Program” for six regions has focused on Manchester, East Anglia, northeast England, the southwest, the southeast, and the Midlands. Another six regions are anticipated to be highlighted in a new selection of them in late autumn.
But as the branding for many such programs proliferates across the government’s explanatory material, it may be the case that book publishing—many times demonstrated by the Publishers Association to be among the UK’s most successful creative industries, especially in its export power—will need its leadership to vie at times for a piece of the action in the government’s great sounding new “sector vision.”
The program, as introduced around the middle of June, singles out several examples of projects that fall under the Sector Vision umbrella. They include:
- “Four new state-of-the-art research and development facilities set up to drive the next generation of screen technology and on-set [digital] production, with £63 million of new industry investment announced today on top of the government’s £75.6 million investment.”
- A government investment of that previously mentioned £50 billion in “the next wave of [the] Creative Industries Clusters Program.”
- The Department of Culture, Media, and Sport increasing that “Create Growth Program” by £10.9 million, “bringing it to a total of £28.4 million until 2025” so the number of regions benefiting can be doubled to 12, and some 2,000 businesses can be supported in “commercializing their ideas.”
- Funding for another program, the “Music Exports Growth Scheme,” which “provides grants to support touring and help emerging musicians break into new global markets, will be expanded to £3.2 million over the next two years.” More music support is to go to yet another program, this one branded the “Supporting Grassroots Music Venues Fund” that’s operated by Arts Council England.
- The “UK Games Fund” gets a boost, as does London Fashion Week and the BFI’s film festival.
All of this sounds good, of course, and to some degree, any cultural investment is helpful in most markets.
What will be interesting is where the newly announced programming has an impact on the foundational storytelling creative industry of them all: book publishing and bookselling.
Philip Jones, The Bookseller‘s editor, in his leader piece today (June 23) writes about Independent Bookshop Week, saying, “Last week the government issued its vision for the creative sector, but bookshops get no mention, as if the books sell themselves. Reader, they do not. This disconnect is unhelpful.”
And 0ne photo from the exhibition floor of London Book Fair, while a welcome sight on Page 38 of the PDF edition of the Sector Vision plan’s 60-page brochure, does not mean that an initiative has yet been spotted with “books” in its branding.
The British book industry is fortunate to have a Publishers Association engaged in the CIC process so that it can try to monitor and influence from the inside the sort of visibility its industry is going to have to maintain–amid a blizzard of branding–to fulfill the Sector Vision’s potential for real support of publishing. Getting that vision into reality is a story just beginning.