Christmas is almost upon us, and I think there’s a good chance that you, like me, are wondering just where the past year has gone.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year, and for many of us a sad one. We’ve seen losses: of income, of companies and venues and at, worst, the loss of friends, colleagues and loved ones.
For months now many of us have existed in the here-and-now, focusing on how to stay afloat, how to support each other and how to navigate the ever-shifting landscape.
While it’s necessary to fight and face down these hardships and challenges, we should also remember to hold onto the positives: the art and ideas borne of adversity, and the adaptations and innovations our sector has forged. From neighbours making facemasks to those who’ve taken major cultural events like Glastonbury or the London Film Festival online, and those leading conference call choirs, leading virtual workshops, streaming gigs from their living rooms to the people behind a Zoom-shot horror film that has gone on to become a global phenomenon.
These examples all show how big a part creativity plays in our daily lives, and how much it matters. Belief in the fundamental importance of our sector is something that helped unite the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England when we joined forces in early 2020, and that same belief helped propel us through the tumultuous months that followed.
I’m proud to say that by coming together – all of us; our members, our peers, our partners and funders – we’ve been able to spread this message and fight creativity’s corner. Within a day, 3,000 of you had responded to our pan-sector ‘Your Voice, Heard’ survey back in March on the impact of the pandemic. This provided a powerful and incontrovertible evidence base on which to build our advocacy work, and led to the #OurWorldWithout campaign, which brought together some 500 of the industry’s leading lights – including Stephen Fry, PJ Harvey, Meera Syal, Jeremy Deller, Anish Kapoor and Nick Cave – to call on government for urgent financial support for the creative sector. This, combined with our commissioned research from Oxford Economics in June, led to over 3,000 pieces of press coverage and widespread recognition of just why our creative sector was worth supporting. We’ve shown politicians and the wider populace how the music, the box sets, the films, the literature, the apps, the plays, the video games and the art that the world has turned to in this time of crisis have worth, far beyond escapism and entertainment. These creative endeavours drive our economy, enrich our communities and provide the lens through which the world views us. And we’ve been sure to highlight the bitter irony that it’s the industries that have kept people sane during lockdown that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, particularly the freelancers and self-employed creatives who make up so much of our workforce.
Of course, raising awareness is all well and good, but our businesses and freelancers need immediate and practical solutions in times of crisis. That’s why we’re so proud that the campaigning of our sector was instrumental in the introduction of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme back in April, as well as the £1.57 billion Culture Renewal Fund in July. Meanwhile our own programmes and initiatives have provided practical investment and help for businesses, such as our loan fund, Creative Growth Finance, which invested over £2 million of finance into small creative businesses often underserved by mainstream financiers. You can read about some of the businesses we’ve been proud to support here. Through Creative Enterprise, our business support programme for screen businesses, funded by the BFI, we have provided over £250k worth of small grants to develop innovative ideas that could supercharge the businesses behind them, as well as supported 174 creative businesses through tailored training, mentoring and coaching.
We know that our creative industries can drive us out of this recession. We know they have the power to create jobs, to drive growth in every part of the UK and to bring communities together. We know that they’re what we need more than ever right now, for us as individuals and as a country.
Our sector is full of resilient, entrepreneurial, brilliant people, and from the conversations I’ve been having the dialogue is definitely shifting from ‘what now!’ to ‘what happens next?’ This was also the key takeaway from our Creative Coalition 2020 festival in November, which saw our sector evaluate the current playing field while exploring ways to change and improve it.
It’s this can-do, will-do spirit that will drive our sector forward. We have the flair, skill and the ideas to power our way out of a tough year and help our colleagues, communities and country do the same. Beyond this, I believe we ultimately have the power to make the world a better, fairer place as well as a more exciting and prosperous one.
So, let’s use the festive period as a time to reflect and take stock, but also to recharge and steel ourselves for the work ahead – I hope you all enjoy the holidays, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working alongside you as we enter a fresh new year.