Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Creative Industries Road Show comes to Leeds

Leeds Grand Theatre
Photo Mtaylor848 
Source Wikipedia

The Creative Industries Federation describes itself as
"the first fully independent body bringing together the public and private sector, across all parts of the country, from the largest multinational to the smallest start-up, from television to computer games, from music to design, from architecture to visual arts".  
For the purpose of recruiting members the Federation recognizes the following as creative industries advertising, architecture, computer gaming, crafts, design, creative education, fashion, film, IT and software, museums, galleries and libraries, music, performing arts, publishing, radio, TV, video and photography and visual arts. English National Ballet is among the Founder Supporter Companies and Organizations as is the Royal Opera House and Tamara Rojo appears on the Federation's launch video.

The Federation is running a series of road shows around the UK "in which leading figures from the arts, creative industries and commercial education will come together to forge new links and map the challenges the sector faces in their area.".  The first of these took place in Manchester on 27 April 2015 and the second in Birmingham on 20 May 2015. On Monday, 1 June 2014, it was Leeds's turn and the caravan gathered in the Howard Assembly Room, a large auditorium leading off the bar of the dress circle in the Grand Theatre,

The event came to my attention because one of the Federation's promises is to "defend intellectual property rights in an ever more digital future." Defending intellectual property rights and indeed attacking them sometimes is what I do for a living but I would probably have given the road show a miss had I not noticed two names on the panel. One of those was Sally Joynson who is CEO of Screen Yorkshire. The other was Sharon Watson, the artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre.

The event was chaired by John Kampfner, CEO of the Federation and Anamaria Willis CEO of CidaCo. The first part of the evening was a monologue by Anya Hindmarsh on how she got to be where she is now. All very worthy but it is not as if we had not heard countless similar stories from other entrepreneurs from way back when. The next talk was Tom Riordan, CEO of Leeds City Council which was equally worthy. The main part of the evening for me was the panel discussion in which Sally and Sharon were billed to take part. Also on the panel were Jamie Sefton, Managing Director of Game Republic Ian Thompson, of Thompson Brand Partners, Dominic Gray of Opera North and Anya Hindmarsh.

The advertised topic of the panel discussion was
"'Uniting the Northern Powerhouse' - Following the emergence of the Great North concept how can growth and success be leveraged across the M62 corridor for the benefit of us all?"
Kampfner posed the combustible (for Leeds) question "Is the Northern Powerhouse all about Manchester and if it is does it matter?" and he asked Sharon to respond. Sharon played that ball with a very straight bat. She replied that Phoenix Dance and Northern Ballet had always regarded the North as a powerhouse so there was nothing new there. Actually that was about as much as she or anyone said on the subject because one of the first questions from the floor came from a teacher who complained that children in Yorkshire were just not taking art and design courses in sufficient numbers and that she was looking to the panellists to put that right. For the rest of the evening the panel concentrated on why that should be, whether it was because parents wanted their offspring to get "a real job" whatever that might mean and whether there was too much an emphasis in this country on STEM. As we could do better in maths and science according to recent PISA tables I was rather worried where that discussion might be leading but apart from a few calls to turn STEM into STEAM there was no serious attack on existing educational priorities.

As there had been a lot of Manchester bashing at the LEP Summit in 2011, the Leeds International Economic Conference last year and even at Northern Ballet's breakfast meeting in September 2013 I was really heartened by Dominic Gray. He urged Leeds not to compare itself to Manchester because the two cities are different.  He recalled the success of the Tour de France last year when images of our beautiful countryside were transmitted round the world. Leeds's strength lay in its hinterland, he seemed to suggest which was like music to my ears.

After the talk there was networking in the bar at which attendees had to buy their own drinks in the best Yorkshire tradition. I met a number of interesting people from different arts and creative sectors including Sharon Watson.  I am a great admirer of her company and her work and had met her very briefly on a couple of other occasions. We swapped a couple of stories about the importance of dance and I told her about my faltering efforts to learn her dance form (see My First Contemporary Dance Class 27 Feb 2015).

If anyone wants to join the Creative Industries Federation here is some further information. Subscriptions do not come cheap. Businesses with turnovers of £200 million or above are charged £15,000 plus VAT while businesses that provide support to the creative industries (such as barristers' chambers) would be charged £6,000. Even individuals aged 25 or under are charged £40.  Having said that, there are discounts for those who join in June and further discounts for those who join after attending the Leeds road show. The creative sector does need a forum and collective voice but few of the people I know in dance have that kind of spare cash.

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