The findings of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth were released earlier this week, providing a rightful recognition of the significant role that culture and the creative industries have to play in our global reputation and standing. The Commission firmly underlines the importance of the arts and education system in building trust in the UK and underpinning the success of our economy. As such the report should be seen as part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympics, which themselves exemplified the importance of how we project ourselves on the world stage.
The UK must, as the report strongly urges, continue to invest in its arts and its creative and cultural industries. Moreover, given the evidence on the return on investment, this is real investment and not subsidy! The sector enjoys significant growth (it was estimated to be worth £76.9 billion in 2013) over and above many others in the UK. It's only through this support that we can continue to build and develop a sector to have the clout to compete in an increasingly competitive global landscape. Investment in UK artists and organisations creates opportunities for them around the world, creating jobs in Britain and contributing to our long term prosperity. This requires a diverse and skilled sector. In short we must continue to internationalise what the report terms the "ecosystem" of our creative economy.
How does this work in practice? We recently ran Fashion DNA, a new UK and Nigeria partnership that looks at developing international networks and building business and technical capacity in the emerging Lagos fashion scene. This offers opportunities for the British sector in what is potentially a hugely lucrative market (West Africa's fashion consumer market is worth roughly $16bn), but also a focus on linking London and Lagos and helping the latter build the infrastructure needed to compete on the world stage, growing the existing innovation, skills and talent existing in this dynamic sector. As part of the GREAT Britain campaign, a major exhibition, Inside Heatherwick Studio will tour widely in east Asia and forms part of a wider programme New British Inventors which will promote British design and creativity around the world. Appropriately, it will see a model and film of the Olympic Cauldron travel to cities across east Asia, providing opportunities on both sides for new collaborations and partnerships; between industry and culture, between technology and the arts and between the UK and the region. Two projects that I hope are the tip of the iceberg and that represent what the report deems "a powerful cocktail of public good and commercial return".
But it is vital that we are not tempted down the route of a quick international fix simply to meet our own short term political imperatives. The greatest value comes from long-term relationships and mutual benefit, not a unilateral approach to exporting our culture. While many can learn from us, the UK can learn a great deal from the rest of the world in skills building, creative education and new ways of working. In 2012 we launched Transform in Brazil, a four-year programme of showcasing, skills building and cultural exchange bridging the Olympics in London and Rio. This cultural and educational relationship with Brazil is an excellent example of the benefit to the UK of reciprocal, as opposed to one-sided, engagement. We can learn from the social agendas that Brazil follows within the arts, from its performing arts centres, its work in favelas and from its outreach through social and education systems - in so many ways a more sophisticated approach than our own.