‘Business must invest in the UK’s creative sector,’ says John Kampfner

John Kampfner opinion

During a key month for UK film, John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, urges business leaders to view investment in our arts and creativity as essential to commercial prosperity for all

He may be an ambassador for the UK’s arts and creativity, but John Kampfner wants to talk numbers. The former chief political correspondent of the FT and editor of the New Statesman is now at the helm of the Creative Industries Federation – launched last November to represent the interests of Britain’s creative sub-sectors, from music and theatre, to fashion, design and architecture, to video games, publishing, broadcasting and more.

Handing over a report on the contribution of creative industries to the UK economy, Kampfner points to some eye-catching headline figures. According to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, between 2012 and 2013 the Gross Value Added (GVA) of creative industries to the economy grew by 9.9 per cent – higher than any other industrial sector, including financial services – with a return of £77bn.

Exports by UK creative industries increased 34.2 per cent between 2009 and 2013 and accounted for 8.7 per cent of exported UK services in 2013 alone. Employment in the sector increased by five per cent between 2013 and 2014, compared to an increase across the economy of 2.1 per cent. Indeed, more than one in 12 jobs in the UK are now in the creative economy.

“This is Britain’s calling card,” says Kampfner. “When you go around the world, so many people associate the UK with our amazing film industry, games industry, our incredible art galleries and theatres. When David Cameron visited China a couple of years ago, he did a social media chat on Weibo with young Chinese people. He wasn’t asked geo-strategic questions, he was asked when the next series of Sherlock was coming to TV.”

But, says Kampfner, this growth will not be sustained without greater investment from government and private enterprise – and the consequences of a slowdown would be felt across the British commercial landscape.

The UK invests 0.3 per cent of GDP in arts and culture, less than the EU average of 0.5 per cent, and some way behind France, which invests 0.8 per cent. “Our contention is that growth will not continue at the pace at which it has happily been if we do not invest in a pipeline – both for the arts themselves and for talent and our creative and cultural education.

“Simply out of economic self-interest it is folly to think that if you do not invest in our arts organisations, that our commercial companies won’t suffer as a result. The Chinese are getting it, the Koreans are getting it, other European countries are getting it. The danger is we are un-getting it just as others are doing the opposite.

“Our argument is to say to government ministers, to business leaders, to civic leaders, that the creative industries and the arts are not something soft, they’re not something you do on a Saturday night, they’re not something to be relegated to a small government department. They are absolutely and should be the core of government thinking, of public policy setting, of the civic agenda and of economic life as well.”

John Kampfner

Boost to commerce – the Turner Contemporary gallery

Kampfner points to the regeneration of Margate – where he has worked as chair of the Turner Contemporary gallery – as an example of how arts investment can boost the wider commercial landscape: “Margate had the second lowest high-street occupancy in Britain, after Middlesbrough, but the place has been transformed by an art gallery [the opening of the Turner Contemporary in 2011 has spearheaded the town’s regeneration].

“Transport has improved, public spaces have improved, where once there were very few restaurants and cafés the place is now heaving with them and there are boutique hotels on the way. The message for all sectors is, you should work with the creative industries at the heart of your civic life. It’s not just about sponsorship, although sponsorship is important, it’s about working collaboratively with the creative industries sector and seeing the merits of that relationship.”

The UK film industry is another sub-sector showing the returns that arts investment can bring to the wider economy. A report in February by Olsberg SPI and Nordicity for the British Film Institute showed that UK films – many of which are supported by direct public investment – generated £1.4bn of exports with a trade surplus of £916m in 2013.

While some contend that the tax breaks offered to productions in the UK serve to benefit overseas-headquartered production companies filming here, Kampfner is unconcerned: “The point around ownership is not to be dismissed, but in my view – so long as the product is filmed in the UK, involving British people – I’m not advocating putting up protectionist barriers. It’s like [being concerned over the ownership of] the Nissan factory in Sunderland, or Jaguar Land Rover in Warwickshire.”

This month Director is meeting UK businesses that have worked on the new James Bond film Spectre, so what does Kampfner make of Bond’s role as a flag carrier for the UK film industry?

“It’s massive,” he says. “I remember when Skyfall came out I was on a work trip to Moscow, and to see massive billboards of Daniel Craig around the city – I think it’s fabulous for brand GB, and absolutely necessary for brand GB. But what I would also say is it’s insufficient. Britain is all of that but so much more than that as well – across the sectors and across the country. We have a really good foundation for our creative industries, but one of the greatest dangers we face is complacency.”

To find out more about the membership body for the arts and creative sector, click here

John Kampfner CV

Early career Foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, chief political correspondent for the FT, political commentator for Radio 4’s Today programme

2005-2008 Editor of New Statesman, taking the publication to a 30-year circulation high.

2009 Book Freedom for Sale published, exploring the willingness of populations to give up freedom for security and economic prosperity.

2011 The Turner Contemporary gallery, of which Kampfner is chair, opens in Margate. It would welcome over one million visitors within two years. He will step down in December.

2012-2014 Adviser to Google on freedom of expression.

2014 Founds the Creative Industries Federation in March, the organisation officially launching in November. It now has several hundred member organisations, including the BBC, BFI, English National Ballet and Google.


About author

Chris Maxwell

Chris Maxwell

Director’s editor spent nine years interviewing TV and film stars for Sky before joining the IoD in 2011 and turning the microphone on Britain’s business leaders. Since then he’s grilled everyone from Boris to Branson and, away from work, maintains an unhealthy obsession with lower league football.

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