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Published onNov 29, 2023

This collection assembles four expert contributions that together address the relationship of UK cultural and creative industries (CCI) policy to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI). It is the first of two reports published by the London Cultural Diversity Laboratory in 2023 addressing these concerns, the second of which focuses on what we can learn from the experience of London’s cultural ecosystem, and that of the wider UK, in the recent period of “polycrisis”.

The overarching aim of this scene-setting collection is to explain core aspects of the CCI-related ecosystem of evidence and policymaking in this field, and its development in the UK, to audiences unfamiliar with the details. It was commissioned and guided by the aims of the Creative Impact Research Centre Europe (CIRCE) to retain and develop understanding of the UK’s experiences in this field after its departure from the European Union.

The UK has a well-developed CCI sector, with a distinctive relationship to government and the wider public, informed by evidence-based policymaking and a rich tradition of critical reflection representing its diverse aims and constituencies. Continental Europe has profited from the vibrant creative ecosystem in the UK in several regards: from creative production processes - and extensive knowledge production on such processes - to the implementation of programs and strategies. Brexit has disrupted cooperation, collaboration and knowledge transfer. In order to preserve, build and operationalize infrastructures of knowledge on the CCI in the countries of continental Europe, a better understanding of the functioning of the CCI-related creative ecosystem in UK will prove a useful navigational aid.

The four papers present narratives drawn from academic and policy experts with a wealth of research and professional experience in these concerns. These authors represent a cross-section of the contribution that the social sciences have made to informing and shaping policy and professional practice in the UK. Each presents a distinct but mutually complementary perspective, drawing both on their own work and wider literature, alongside illustrative case studies.

1.     Spatial inequalities (Andy Pratt, City, University of London)

The first contributor is Professor Andy Pratt, an economic geographer and UNESCO Chair of Global Creative Economy. In a short paper, Pratt provides an overarching view of the last thirty years of creative industries policymaking in the UK with a particular focus on how questions of policy and practice are shaped by its particular geography: first in terms of workforce distribution; then levels of governance; finally, the substantive policy mechanisms put into practice as a result.

London continues to dominate the national creative economy, despite repeated rhetoric and several initiatives to rebalance (or in more recent terminology ‘level up’) the field at local, regional and devolved national scales. His conclusion is that these spatial imbalances, and resultant inequalities, have long been recognized but have not been properly addressed due to a lack of coordinated attention at UK government level.

Learning from this multi-decade experience, he observes that:

First, locality is recognized as a distinctive characteristic of cultural and creative production: this principle has now been established as an important contributor for policy attention but is missing a more ‘joined up’ national strategic approach..

Second, however, the cultural policy system has been buffeted by swings of the political pendulum: throughout changing emphases on entrepreneurial incentives and more strategic direction, different geographies have come into visibility (and fashion) – from local enterprise zones, to regional devolution, and back to a national industrial strategy – but served poorly by an inconsistent policymaking system.

Third, a longterm negative trend has been the disempowerment of the local: ‘creative industries’ were birthed in local urban and municipal initiatives, yet local authorities have consistently been stripped of powers and funding over the intervening period, despite recurring calls to decentralize decision-making and authority.

This longterm overview then sets the scene for three further interventions, focusing on the period since 2010.

2.     Evidence and lobbying (Eliza Easton, Erskine Analysis)

The next contribution is from Eliza Easton, a policy analyst who previously acted as Head of Policy and Deputy Director for the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre and was a founding member of the Creative Industries Federation (now Creative UK). Easton maps out the contemporary policy and evidence ecosystem by taking a tour through three key institutions set up over the years 2010-2020:

  • the Creative Industries Council, a forum for industry leaders and government representatives;

  • the Creative Industries Federation (now Creative UK), an independent trade association representing the interests of the entire sector;

  • the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre, a UK Research & Innovation council funded body designed to co-create and commission research that would help build the evidence base in line with both industry and government needs.

For Easton, key lessons are as follows.

First, the importance of independence: a self-interested trade body is necessary in addition to a coordinated approach, in order to actively shape policy and respond to areas of concern beyond those recognized by the government of the day.

Second, evidence is not enough: good relationships with those in government are crucial and a single independent body can offer a useful forum and a single coherent voice to achieve this.

Third, research requires strategic communication: it is not just about providing evidence to the right policy actors but about campaigning to connect research to their specific concerns and timelines.

3.     How diversity and inequality became central problems for UK cultural policy (Dave O’Brien, University of Manchester)

The collection moves on with a third paper authored by Professor Dave O’Brien, a cultural sociologist currently working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as an AHRC Policy Fellow. O’Brien lays out the process by which diversity and inequality – specifically social mobility – rose to the forefront of the cultural policymaking agenda, beginning from the spread of auditing regimes and the increase in production of sector-relevant data. He examines three representative organizational initiatives that exhibit this process:

  • a bursaries programme administered by Jerwood Arts

  • the British Film Institute’s Film Fund

  • the Let’s Create programme of Arts Council England.

Ending by reflecting on the post-pandemic moment, the Creative Industries 2030 Sector Vision and a recent emphasis on ‘good work’ in CCI contexts, O’Brien draws three main conclusions, which echo those of the previous contribution.

First, data collection is a preface to policy action: the “problem” of inequalities and social mobility only becomes salient for cultural policymakers once it is made visible through regular data gathering exercises.

Second, data collection is not enough for policy action: visibility is only the first step; more concerted and active state intervention may be needed for substantive change to be effected – and so very much dependent on an overarching direction of travel.

Third, data collection is nationally embedded: both the methods and the impetus for collecting data on, for example, “class” and “race” are specific to the British context, where few prohibitions on demographic data classifications exist and there is a lively public conversation over their salience in everyday life – a dynamic that may look very different in other national contexts.

4.     Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the CCI (Sarita Malik, Brunel University London)

The final contribution comes from Professor Sarita Malik, a media and communications scholar and member of the DCMS College of Experts. It explores the distinction between DEI as a strategic policy and governance framework and the lived experience of multicultural diversity, with a focus on screen industries as spaces that must mediate that distinction. Malik looks first at the nature of race and ethnicity data and diversity discourse in this sector before enumerating the various practical challenges that these generate. She identifies five:

  • negotiating social and economic goals;

  • skills, education and training;

  • industrial conditions, inclusive work cultures and practices;

  • data practices, capture and accountability

  • heterogeneity, intersectionality and lived diversity.

Malik’s conclusions, complementing those of previous authors, revolve around the observations that:

First, DEI frameworks have been remarkably resilient: throughout multiple crises and, indeed, political attacks, CCI have witnessed an explosion in multiple remits, mission statements, plans and regulations, not to mention data collection exercises, at a national level.

Second, nevertheless, the organizational realities are themselves mixed: the “promise” of diversity is often misaligned with empirical experience, with the latter patterned by wider crises.

Third, by implication, further analysis and strategic planning continues to be required at institutional levels, where there currently exists no real consensus over what to measure, for what purposes, and, crucially, where accountability might lie.

The collection ends with two appendices:

  • a skeleton timeline of relevant events mentioned in the working papers, spanning the past thirty years;

  • a glossary of bodies, policies, strategies and other acronyms relevant to the content of the collection.


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