GBSLEP Board Director, Anita Bhalla reflects on the region's creative economy
14 May 2020
My glass is always half full and despite the extraordinary times we find ourselves in, it remains so but now it needs topping up. We all know too well that times are hard, but they have the potential to get even harder before getting better. This region has a fighting spirit, my parents came here as immigrants decades ago, times were tough, but their spirit, determination and hard work built a future for us. That same spirit in in abundance here and now.
In recent years we have invested in our creative economy, watched it grow, given it a regional and national voice to see it rise as one of the key areas of growth for the GBSLEP. Are we really going to give all this up without a fight? I think not. Last week artists, musicians and creative sector leaders gave a stark warning that the UK is in danger of becoming a cultural wasteland because of the economic damage done to the sector by Covid-19. The Creative Industries Federation is calling on the Chancellor and Culture Secretary to allocate urgent funding for creative organisations and professionals who are in danger of collapse. They point out that throughout this crisis artists have not stopped producing content online, so people’s lives continue to be enriched by cultural experiences. Arts Council England is going some way to support the organisations it already funds; while this is welcomed it is not enough. We know in our region that our creative economy is made up of freelancers and SMEs who are falling through the funding gaps.
While funding is crucial to getting the creative economy up and running again this is not enough. The coming months will require strong leadership –without barriers and boundaries. Never before have we needed collaboration and partnerships to go that extra mile - what great examples past weeks have shown us from health, care, retail, public services and community organisations. We applaud you all.
Going forward our creative economy must grow but goodwill is not going to be enough. We need cross sector partnerships thinking outside the box, grabbing new opportunities the current landscape presents us. Emerging from this should be collaborative leadership, which also requires joint responsibility.
Strong partnerships are not accidental, and they do not arise out of goodwill or ad hoc projects - effective partnerships require new structures and activities, each institution re-thinking how it operates. It will require all our imagination and collaboration to build the confidence in our people to once again embrace our town and city streets, our amazing cultural venues, our bars and restaurants - to have the confidence again to walk and grow with pride.