Local creative and cultural industries strategies can play a key role in devolution policy, and understanding the differences and nuances of local industrial strategies helps inform policymakers looking at cultural and creative industries-led ‘levelling up’. Ultimately, policy should be shaped by local strategy and regional identity as much as national goals. This blog raises policy asks regarding the inclusion of specific sectors in local strategies, and how to ensure the outcomes of levelling up are equitable across both regions and sectors.
- Cultural and creative industries (CCI) have been identified for their potential to support national economic growth. They also provide key narratives for pride in place.
- Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) lack CCI-specific guidance to ensure effective implementation and inclusion across regions and sectors.
- The government should provide increased and tailored support for regions without distinct creative clusters to reduce inter and intra-regional disparities.
- Recognition of regional differences (history, identity, geography) in CCI strategy should be acknowledged both regionally and nationally to ensure success.
The value of cultural and creative industries
Cultural and creative industries (CCIs) have been repeatedly identified for their potential to support national economic growth since the first governmental mapping report in 1998. Following the launch of the national Industrial Strategy, three city-regional Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) pilots in England aimed to develop place-based strategies for economic development and boosting productivity. Analysis of the LIS of Greater Manchester and the West Midlandsshowed revealed how CCIs not only provide potential economic grown but also present narratives of place, an important element which suggests best practice for other devolved administrations.
Creative and cultural industries in industrial policy
UK cultural policy actors have articulated their desire to understand the role of creative industries within regional areas for over twenty years. The formation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) under the New Labour government in 1997 and the publication of Creative Industries Mapping Document combined with the renewed interest in regional government at the time.
A Regional Issue Working Group (RIWG) was established in 1999 to account for inequalities in economic and social opportunities across the country. However, a sense of disconnect arose despite the efforts of national government to put infrastructure in place at a regional level. Most significantly, the formation of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in 1998 was a national attempt for policymakers to redefine the economic and policy geographies of regions.
Complemented by the Regional Cultural Consortia (RCCs), sector mapping research was undertaken to highlight the strengths and values within regions, principally the identification of creative clusters.
Despite these mapping exercise, there has until recently been a lack of clarity over national strategy for the Creative and Cultural Industries. The development of a national Industrial Strategy in 2017 was accompanied by the Independent Review of Creative Industries Sector by Sir Peter Bazalgette which provides guidance to inform policy for the CCIs.
However, with both RCCs and RDAs now dissolved and with no equivalent regional support structures, it has only been with the devolution of city-regions and the development of the LIS pilots that CCI policy at a regional level can be compared.
Importance of place
The context within which CCIs are included in LIS is heavily dependent on both regional identity and on the engagement of local policymakers. These shape the approaches to the articulation of CCIs within the LIS.
Comparisons between the LIS documents of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands show the relationships between the political, cultural, social and historical landscapes within which LIS operates which inform how national guidance is taken up within local strategy.
The Greater Manchester LIS combines the narrative of Manchester’s industrial might with one of political, cultural and geographical distinction.
The West Midlands LIS opens with a narrative of recent growth, linked to the region’s role as central transport hub, its industrial heritage in car manufacture and promised investment in connectivity and green technologies.
The Greater Manchester LIS identifies “Digital, Creative and Media” as one of four key sectors for driving productivity, locating multiple CCI clusters as place-based strengths.
The West Midlands LIS does not explicitly reference CCIs but emphasises the importance of “creative content, techniques and technologies” in driving innovation and development of other industries.
The Greater Manchester LIS combines welfare utility with the effects of creative clusters to actively link CCIs with cultures of place.
The West Midlands LIS focuses on the transferability of CCI values and skills between sectors.
A new national and local Creative Sector Vision
Following the pandemic’s impact on CCIs and the broader economy, and the publication of the Levelling Up white paper, there is greater interest in using CCIs within levelling up, local economic development and in place-based recovery at a national level.
There is also greater need to ensure that CCI support is tailored to local need and identity, to help creative and cultural sectors thrive. This is as the CCIs offer more than economic development, contributing to quality of life and pride of place. A new Sector Vision is due this Autumn, developed by the Creative Industries Council. This will hopefully have further guidance that brings national and local government together to co-produce local industrial strategies with equity and sensitivity to regional differences and needs.
Actions for policymakers to take forwards
- Organisations involved in developing local industrial strategies should include local sectors in strategy development. Currently, there is no impetus for creative and cultural industries to be involved in development of industrial strategies, and this is something that needs addressing. How CCIs are included in a strategy should not be prescribed to devolved administrations by government, as the cases of GMCA and WMCA have shown that different strategies can still be equally as inclusive of a range of sectors. Creative and cultural industries present opportunities to provide narratives about place as well as opportunities for expansion, and should feature within LIS guidelines for their inclusion.
- To make sure that creative industries outside of large cities and towns do not fall behind, the government should offer targeted support for regions without distinct creative clusters. In instances like this, the WMCA strategy could be looked at for guidance as this strategy is less focused on the locations of creative clusters, but embraces the nature of creative industry as cross-sectoral and unbound by a fixed creative centre or hub.
- National government, or local government working alone, cannot deliver successful place-based policy. Local Industrial Strategies should be co-produced with relevant local and national sectors and stakeholders to build strategies that serve sectors and places equitably. The new Creative Sector vision, due in autumn 2022, will hopefully provide guidance and support which considers place factors and regional differences.
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