No. 17 | Prospecting for gold
“The golden thread running through the industries where Britain does best is innovation.” That bold statement was made by the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in a speech a few weeks ago.
Say ‘innovation’ and ‘industries’ and most people think of science and technology. Indeed, Jeremy Hunt expressed his desire to make the UK the world’s next Silicon Valley. But he also highlighted the potential of Britain’s creative industries.
Those creative industries are galvanised and fed by the innovative spirit of artistic endeavour. Artists are by definition innovative: every artist aspires to being distinctive and original. Each creative project, each performance constitutes a new challenge – the life of an artist becomes a process of constant reinvention. And it is the artist’s ability to produce something fresh, exciting and life-enhancing that makes them so valuable to society. They find their working environment in the creative industries, where professionals with complementary skills – whether creative or managerial – engage with and amplify their talents.
No fewer than 95 projects, employing over 1,000 creative professionals around the UK, were made possible by the Genesis Kickstart Fund. Offering a total of £1million in grants, it was launched in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and the 95th project is completed this spring. To be eligible for a grant, each of those projects had to demonstrate innovation. The talent – and innovative thinking – that the Kickstart fund has nurtured stands to enliven the UK’s creative industries for many years to come.
Similarly, the recently launched Genesis Theatre Design Programme – a free two-year course with a mission to improve global-majority representation among theatre designers – will encourage innovation in the application of design skills. Live theatre is its starting point, but it will embrace film and TV, music events, video games and virtual reality too. More than ever, developments in science and technology are fuelling creativity.
The creative industries range wide, bridging the public and private sectors. Events in recent months have triggered much debate, even controversy, about public funding of the arts. Public cultural institutions are not ivory towers: they are integral to the creative industries in the broadest sense. And if we are to strengthen the golden thread of innovation, philanthropy has a role to play. Not least, it can foster the skills and careers of creative professionals who possess both multiple talents and entrepreneurial flair. Their capacity for innovation could herald a new Golden Age.