The last three years have seen us go through some weird times. All of us have lived out a period in history that will go down in the record books, forever remembered by those who were there, an enigma to those who weren't. It will end up being taught in schools to our kids’ kids, and they will come to you and ask what life was like when the world stopped turning and there was no loo roll.
So, when that happens, what will you say?
That it was scary? Bizarre? Unimaginable? Just how do you describe the restrictions, media chaos, political propaganda, furloughs, lost jobs, multiple lockdowns – and the deaths of over 6m people? There are few words that capture just what it meant to be caught up in the panic and confusion of the pandemic. Its scale is the kind of enormity that’s impossible to convey.
And in the same way that words shrivel up like a slug in the sun when pitted against what went on in those years, so the creative industry as a whole shrank back in the wake of Covid-19.
But that’s not the end of the story. Creativity, like life, finds a way…. Could the industry that suffered most financially in those years be the one to save the UK’s economy?
Waaaay back in 2019 (remember those halcyon days when potentially fatal, global diseases were the work of science fiction?), the UK’s creative industries were worth up to £18 billion and contributed an estimated £115.9 billion in GVA to the UK economy. This figure equated to 5.9% of the UK’s economy as a whole and accounted for 1 in 8 businesses which fell into the ‘creative industries’ bracket, which covers:
These figures followed a period of exponential growth between 2011 – 2019, which saw the creative industries increase at double the rate of the UK economy as a whole prior to the onset of Covid. Before the outbreak, the UK’s creative industry was set to contribute £122bn in GVA to the UK economy and reach employment levels of 2.15 million by the end of 2020. Basically, pre pandemic, creative businesses were thriving and all was well in the world of getting paid to make stuff, be that West End musicals or swanky websites.
Then Covid hit.
Gigs were cancelled, shows were shut down, and everyone was ordered to stay at home. A total of 10m jobs were lost across the creative industry worldwide, with employment in the UK’s creative sector falling below 2m for the first time since 2016. Financially, things were pretty bleak, too. The pandemic cost the UK economy an estimated £12bn in GVA for the creative industry during 2020, taking its total to £104.1bn, a 15% drop on the predicted outcome had the pandemic not happened.
Thankfully, amid the fallout, the government announced last year that the creative industry is one of the four key sectors identified for investment in its economic growth plan to ‘build back better’ following the pandemic.
It cited that: “The creative industries have made a substantial and sustained contribution to economic growth and job creation across the UK growing, on average, nearly twice the rate of the wider economy,” and that the decision to invest “is in recognition of their great work.” Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries added, “The creative industries in the UK are truly world class and I am committed to doing everything I can to support their innovative work as they continue to thrive.”
Good news for all those within the industry, and also those who rely on – and appreciate – its work!
As part of the plan, the government is investing £50m into the creative sector, with £18m funding set aside for creative industries outside of London to produce more opportunities and jobs in areas that have previously lacked the support London has received.
Another area of the creative sector that will receive special support is the UK film industry, with £21m of the proceed going to the three-year UK Global Screen Fund, which will promote UK films internationally. The remaining £8m will be provided to entrepreneurial businesses, and start-up businesses for video game developers across the UK.
In addition to the £50m for businesses, the government identified a further £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund to support over 5,000 organisations and sites across the country coming out of the pandemic, including theatres, independent cinemas, galleries, music venues, and museums.
Initial indications are that the government's plan seems to be working. Provisional data shows an uptick in GVA for the UK’s creative industries in 2021 to about £104bn. That’s roughly a £9bn increase compared to the same period in 2020, and just £3bn shy of pre-pandemic figures for the same in 2019.
But just what is it about the creative industry that gives it such economic bounce-back and clout?
The answer is ‘spill over’. Cultural and creative ‘spill over’ is defined as, “The process by which activities in the arts, culture and creative industries has a subsequent broader impact on places, society or the economy through the overflow of concepts, ideas, skills, knowledge and different types of capital”.
It occurs when one activity in the creative sector has a subsequent impact on the wider society, either directly or indirectly. There are four main areas where spill over shows itself: economy, concepts, ideas, and political ideology. These areas are all subject to overlap. Political ideology can affect economic growth, for example, just as changes in concepts can affect political ideology.
With the creative sector, spill over occurs not just in terms of its influence but as a direct result of its actions. Music festivals, for example, involve a lot of outsourcing that has a positive impact far beyond industries that come under the government's definition of creative industries. A music festival might call for workers in the catering, logistics, and construction industries to name just a few.
There is no doubt the creative industries are a leading force in the UK’s economic recovery post-Covid. Based on current estimations, the creative industry stands to create 300,000 new jobs and generate £132.1 billion in GVA by 2025.
One sector that’s seen especially rapid growth since the pandemic is digital entertainment. The Global Web Index shows that over 80% of consumers in America and the UK watch more content since the outbreak, with TV and online videos like YouTube and TikTok content receiving the most viewing time across all age groups.
In answer to demand, digital companies are rising to the challenge, creating more intricate, personalised content to enhance consumers’ online experiences and make their output more intuitive to consumers’ needs.
The spill over potential for digital creative industries is immense, and there's little doubt that this will prove pivotal in the rise of the economy. The UK is a frontrunner for creative forward-thinking, and it’s that tenacity of spirit that will help to not only salvage the economy, but also catapult the creative industry to new heights.
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