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Creative forces line up behind plan for greater digital access

Andrew | 16 Mar 2010, 16:22

C&binet comment: Margaret Hodge, Culture Minister, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Margaret HodgeMBE

Last week was a big week for opportunity in the creative industries. On Monday afternoon I was at Number 10 to launch a £600K Creative Bursaries Scheme with the Prime Minister and a quartet of Billy Elliots. Then on Tuesday I kick-started the seminar at Tate Modern on digital access that I mentioned in my last blog.

Our Creative Bursaries scheme is designed to open up equal opportunities to young people from low income backgrounds to succeed in jobs in the arts.  Too many young people who manage to graduate from a conservatoire, a drama college, or an art school then find they haven’t got the contacts or the money to break through into a successful career.  This scheme, administered by Jerwood, will guarantee them an income at the rate of £15,000 for up to a year, and a placement with our best orchestras, dance companies or theatres.  It’s a Billy Elliot opportunity for graduates.

I also want to see better digital access become the next iconic moment for UK culture. Bringing in free admission a decade ago opened the doors of our national museums to a much wider audience. Greater digital freedom has the potential to tear down new walls, and bring in new audiences.

My thanks go out to all the people who came to critique and comment on Jonathan Drori’s digital access draft paper – it was uplifting to hear from so many people so knowledgeable and so energised by the possibilities. We’ll publish the finalised paper as soon as all the feedback from Tuesday’s event has been digested.

For me, trust came out as the common thread. Spencer Hyman urged cultural bodies to ‘share the love’ – to trust the online community with cultural content, to trial it, and share their experiences and recommendations friend to friend.

Nick Poole of the Collections Trust consigned the old business model based on content transactions to history and urged trust in social capital.

Jane Finnis of Culture24 urged publicly funded cultural organisations to trust each other with their market research.

The current and widespread public suspicion of authority figures, including experts, was raised by Christine Wall, and she spoke about how this initiated a change of attitude at English Heritage, from asking the public to trust them, to asking themselves to trust the public.

Lynne Brindley pointed out that the public already expects the British Library to be online, and offered practical advice on how public cultural collections can work profitably with private sector partners (‘You can do business with Google!’) to the advantage of both. It’s possible, in Lynne’s view, to use digitisation to enhance revenue, reach and reputation, and the British Library are in the process of drawing up guidelines based on their experience.

I had to leave, reluctantly, at the point when the delegates broke out into groups to dissect the paper – but the outcome of those discussions and the pledges for progress made will be published shortly at I’ll let you know when. 

Finally, I encourage all of you who have ambitions to develop new ‘apps’ or to do business with those that can, to attend Rewired Culture, which DCMS is hosting on 27 March.

Digital access to culture is a world of opportunity for creative businesses

Alastair | 08 Mar 2010, 12:24


Society advances through the connections we make. Some quite surprising. Last week I discovered a link between Rolf Harris and the search for a breakthrough on nuclear fusion.

Listening to a Desert Island Discs podcast, I caught Jim Al-Khalili talking about the part the BBC World Service played in his Baghdad childhood. He told a story about listening on his birthday with his brother and hearing the presenter dedicate Two Little Boys to him. Anglophile tendencies and English connections eventually brought the family to Britain in the 1970s following Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, and Professor Al-Khalili is now one of our most eminent theoretical physicists – and a brilliant communicator about science.

Also on my list of podcasts to catch up on has been Neil MacGregor’s entrancing British Museum and the BBC. The British Museum contributes the artefacts and Neil MacGregor’s erudition to the partnership, and the BBC its communications expertise. “ title=“A History of the World in 100 Objects “>A History of the World in 100 Objects – a product of a connection between the British Museum and the BBC. The British Museum contributes the artefacts and Neil MacGregor’s erudition to the partnership, and the BBC its communications expertise.

By the magic of digital technology, anyone with a broadband connection, at any time, anywhere in the world (one likes to think), can simultaneously study in close up a 12,000-year-old clovis spear point while listening to Neil associating it’s exquisite yet lethal design with humanity’s ‘restless struggle towards something not yet experienced, something better, more useful, more beautiful.’
The BBC’s figures suggest thousands and thousands of people are doing exactly that. In its first two weeks over 800,000 editions of the programme were heard via online streams or downloads and the podcast went straight to the top of the iTunes chart – normally dominated by comedy and entertainment. Offline, the British Museum says visits are up by ten per cent on the same period last year (which itself was a busy time in the middle of the popular Babylon exhibition).
A History is unquestionably a brilliant example of digital enriching and opening up access to culture, and culture enriching and opening up digital – a relationship I’ve been championing for some time. Last year I asked digital guru Jonathan Drori to come up with a ‘to do’ list for cultural organisations, a guide to using digital access to open up and make the most of our cultural resources.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 9th March, I’m hosting a seminar at Tate Modern with cultural leaders to discuss Jonathan’s recommendations – including freeing up rights to publicly owned cultural material, opening up cultural organisations to social networks, integration of digital technology, encouraging partnerships and experimentation with material, and ideas for revenue sharing deals.
I’ll report back afterwards, but I already see great opportunities here for the creative industries to make mutually beneficial and profitable connections with cultural bodies.

UK City of Culture Festival will showcase Creative Industries

Andrew | 27 Feb 2010, 07:05

Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Norwich and Sheffield left in contest to work with the BBC, C4, UK Film Council and other creatives on first ever UK City of Culture festival

C&binet comment: Margaret Hodge, Culture Minister, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Margaret HodgeMBE

I announced Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Norwich and Sheffield earlier this week as the final four shortlisted candidates for the first ever UK City of Culture in 2013. If you’re a creative entrepreneur or part of a creative company, this is the ‘get set’ stage – get set for an explosion of opportunities to network, showcase your business and your skills, and bid for work.

Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 generated an £800m boost to the local economy – a good share going to creative industries in the region – and turned it into the third most popular weekend break destination in the UK.

I can well imagine how tough a task it is to untangle the benefits of Liverpool 08 from the consequences of the global downturn. But even a cautious-sounding document published last November by Impacts 08 has local creative businesses saying that European Capital of Culture enhanced their profile, grew their client base and improved long-term prospects.

That makes me hugely optimistic about what UK City of Culture can do for strengthening the profile of cities and encouraging the creative sector. The winning city will need hundreds of creative partners, advisers and suppliers capable of making their year in the cultural spotlight a critical as well as a financial success.

The BBC and C4 have already committed to matching the level of coverage they gave Liverpool, including the staging or hosting of media events such as Sports Personality of the Year, the Culture Show, Electric Proms, the Turner Prize and Grand Designs Live.

C4 will be looking at basing a major reality TV event in the winning city, or a major music concert and Sony will consider relocating the Brits to the City of Culture for that year.

Public bodies like the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, Arts Council England and Visit Britain will look to stage ceremonies, events and promotions. The UK Film Council will stage a film festival and support local filmmaking. And the winning city will have committed to making full use of digital technology to get people fully involved locally.

Get set now. We say ‘go’ in the summer with the announcement of the successful bid.

C&binet ambassador Lucian Grainge appointed CEO of Universal Music Group

Nick | 11 Feb 2010, 11:46

Lucian Grainge, one of the driving forces behind the success of c&binet forum 2009, has been promoted to lead the world’s biggest music company.

A (Universal’s parent company) said:

Vivendi announced today the appointment of Lucian Grainge as Chief Executive Officer of Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s leading music company. Mr. Grainge is promoted from his current role as Chairman and CEO of London-based Universal Music Group International (UMGI). He will take up the position on Jan. 1st 2011, succeeding Doug Morris, who will remain as Chairman. He will relocate to New York from July 1st 2010. During these six months, Doug Morris and Lucian Grainge will act as co-CEOs of UMG. Lucian Grainge will report to Jean-Bernard Levy and become a member of the Vivendi Management Board.

Under Lucian Grainge’s leadership since 2005, UMGI has grown its market share worldwide, broken global acts and led the music industry in developing a range of new digital services. He started his career with CBS/April Music in 1979, advancing to positions in Artists & Repertoire (A&R) and talent development, and rising to senior management positions at PolyGram UK and Universal Music internationally.

As a c&binet ambassador, Mr Grainge played a leading role in shaping the agenda and content for c&binet forum 2009.

Film Minister launches Pinewood apprenticeship scheme

Alastair | 05 Feb 2010, 11:01

Pinewood Studios – currently shooting Harry Potter 7 – has opened up a new career path into the film industry. Today the first 10 recruits to the Pinewood Studio Group Apprenticeship Scheme took their first steps to an NVQ Level 2&3 in 2012 when the scheme was launched by departing film minister, Siôn Simon.

At the launch Simon met Sam Healy, one of the ten apprentices, who will be spending the next two years becoming a drapesman – a specialist role with responsibility for all the fabrics and soft furnishings on the film set.

Pinewood’s scheme, with the local Amersham and Wycombe College providing the academic element, is part of a Creative Britain commitment by the creative industries to offer 5,000 apprenticeships a year by 2013.

Commitments so far amount to 1,400 places, with another 475 currently underway. A dozen of these are Set Craft Apprentices on an existing joint Skillset/Pinewood scheme now into its second year. The Set Craft Apprentices have been working on productions including Harry Potter, James Bond, Batman and the forthcoming John Carter of Mars.

Last month the influential House of Lords Communications Committee made a series of recommendations on boosting the range, depth and relevance of training and skills for the UK film and television industries.

Siôn Simon said, ‘the film industry can be incredibly tough to break into, but Pinewood’s apprenticeship scheme is a welcome route into this exciting and highly creative industry. Sam and the other apprentices I met today are employed for their ability and potential, and I am sure they will do extremely well. Pinewood Studios is working hard to address any skills gaps while providing a great start for some enthusiastic young people.’

Sion Simon - 2010 and Beyond

Alastair | 21 Jan 2010, 15:19

Creative Industries Minister, Siôn Simon has urged creative businesses to pitch into the £10m Digital Test Bed being established by the Technology Strategy Board.

In a speech to last week’s OC&C/Enders Analysis ‘2010 & Beyond’ conference, hosted by the Natural History Museum, Simon trailed the test bed programme which will give creative businesses access to an online forum for trialling micropayment mechanisms and other new anti-piracy business innovations.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is looking for firms to make up partnerships and run trials of the Test Bed which will be up and running in the autumn. TSB will be providing support to businesses who get involved – see here for contact details.
Simon describes the initiative as ‘real, practical help to make digital work for the creative economy,’ and a part of a ‘serious plan to make digital work for everyone in the community’ – a reference to theDigital Economy Bill, currently working its way through the Lords committee stages (day 6 of committee stage on 3rd Feb).
In his speech, Simon also championed the Government’s plans for universal and superfast broadband, its school-to-workplace programme for widening and deepening the UK’s future pool of creative talent, and the success of last October’s c&binet conference in bringing the sector together.
You can read Siôn Simon’s speech text on the DCMS website.