And so, 2024 is here. Firstly, I’d like to wish an enormous Happy New Year to all our Creative UK members, businesses, partners and friends. This will be an important year for the cultural and Creative Industries – and no doubt for the country – as we prepare for an election that will steer the UK’s course during these challenging times. In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing our own UK General Election manifesto, which solidifies the points of action we want to see addressed by all parties. Stay tuned for more, but rest assured we’re actively calling for more investment, more support and stronger creative education – with clear solutions to every problem.
Before we give ourselves totally over to the new year, though, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what we achieved in 2023, and how it has helped lay a solid foundation for us in 2024.
A personal highlight for me was the launch of our landmark £35 million Creative Growth Finance II fund. Delivered in partnership with Triodos Bank, CGF II is providing the kind of crucial investment that our sector needs – with talent-led, innovative businesses able to apply for loans of between £100,000 and £1 million to help them grow. On the back of the fund’s successful launch, we made a commitment to invest £7m annually into new, early-stage creative businesses.
Our Culture and Creative Investment Programme, funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, was the first of its kind: offering a combined package of financial and business support to freelancers and businesses working in the creative and culture sector in North Tyneside, Northumberland and Newcastle. I’m delighted that the Combined Authority has renewed our partnership, whilst adding a further £2m to the investment pot. We’re looking forward to growing this model and working with other local authority partners across the country.
The Filming in England team have also had another busy year. This year, England was the backdrop for everything from epic battles in Napoleon to castle construction in Lord of the Rings – Ring of Power. And let’s not forget the creation of Wonka’s whimsical world, the transformation of a quiet Buckinghamshire village into Munchkin Land for Wicked, or the Cornish coastline setting the stage for House of the Dragon.
Meanwhile, our quest to see an end to bullying and harassment made positive strides. The industry roundtable, convened by Creative UK, saw all UK broadcasters commit funds to a new independent organisation – the Creative Industries Independent Standards Agency (CIISA), as well as financial backing from the music and theatre.
Alongside all of this, we continued to advocate and champion the sector and the value it brings to the UK economy and our health and prosperity. We convened multiple roundtables, breakfast and leader sessions with all political parties in 2023, including several Secretaries of State, Shadow ministers, Select Committees, the House of Lords and the Leader of the Opposition. We played a pivotal role in the development of the UK Government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision, published in June, which set out a roadmap for the growth of the sector and which was developed closely with our stakeholders and partners.
We’ve also been part of everything from Treasury Connects – the Chancellor’s event, bringing together senior creative and political leaders to discuss how we can collectively drive growth – to actively driving discussions and roundtables during a lively party conference season.
We’re going into 2024 ready to keep building on this work. A personal priority for me is to expand on our idea for a Creativity Bank, which would serve as a holistic resource for talent-led businesses across the country. I imagine this would serve as a wholesale facility (rather than a retail high street “bank” – we’re not quite ready for that yet!) offering access to money, knowledge, tools and resources from a plethora of partners.
Creative UK has long adopted a patient approach to capital and growth, and a facility like this could help guarantee the right type of money is available at the right stage for creative organisations. My sense is we need to build an ecosystem of different financial interventions, products, services and resources to support cultural and creative businesses to grow. I say let’s begin by looking at how we grow the pie rather, than a circular discussion about the crumbs.
I’m looking forward to exploring all of this and more at The Big Creative UK Summit 2024. Taking place on 6-8 March, in London and online, it’s a chance to interrogate the critical issues facing the cultural and Creative Industries, and to hear from industry leaders, politicians, thought pioneers, emerging talent and organisations. Highlights from last year’s summit are still online, and I’m sure that this year’s will be just as invigorating as we work to make change.
I hope to see you then, and in the meantime, Happy New Year once again.