Birmingham’s Creative Industries – the ‘business case’

Whilst admiring the yellow courgettes growing on my allotment yesterday I thought to myself: “someone should really write a blog post about Birmingham’s Creative Industries and the whole Local Economic Partnerships thing. Hey, that’s something I could write about”. Fortunately, Chris Unitt on the Created in Birmingham blog got there before me and has got some good discussion going. This therefore is the ‘further reading’ to that blog post: some stats to help set the context and a modicum of opinion.

‘Punch Above Their Weight’
We could do with a restatement of the national picture of the size and scope of Creative Industries (CI) and their contribution to the economy. That’s the ‘Creative Industries’ sub-sectors as measured by government since the late 90s. The last economic estimates for CI in the UK puts them growing at 2% above the rest of the economy, accounting for 6.2% of Gross Value Added (GVA) in the economy and responsible for 4.5% of exports. That GVA figure is worth pausing on. In general CIs are a bunch of sectors that are ‘high value’, the goods and services they create are bought at a high price compared to the cost of producing them. So although in scale CI aren’t vast, they tend, in jargon heavy policy documents at least, to be described as ‘punching above their weight’.

Birmingham’s CIs
So what about locally? Back in 2007 there was a report called ‘Making The Business Case’ (not available online), funded by the City Council, commissioned by the Creative Birmingham board, which articulated Birmingham’s case for continuing to recognise the importance of the CIs: “Birmingham’s creative industries are important to its economy. They generate real jobs and income and respectable amounts of GVA.” They reckoned the sector was worth £1bn or 8.7% of the city’s GVA (Manchester has a figure of 10.9%).

An updated report was commissioned in 2009 which used a slightly different methodology so the two reports aren’t comparable. For example, its GVA figure for 2007 is £663m (see below) but is calculated in a different way and, if I recall correctly, the researchers were very sceptical about the accuracy of calculating GVA at city level. Much of this updated report is summarised in a report in the Birmingham Post from October 2009 but the report itself remains unpublished. It’s a good read though, if only you were able to read it.

Here are some tables from it. Stats only go up to 2007 and even if revised again now would only go to 2008:

So in summary, Birmingham’s Creative Industries do just about ‘punch above their weight’ and remain an important part of our economy. But other smaller cities seem to do a bit better than us – we’ve got less creatives than Leeds and less as a proportion of overall employment than Bristol. We have a growing number of employees in micro firms but a decline in overall creative employment since 2003/4. That’s evidence perhaps that policy that focuses purely on start-ups needs to be supplemented with support for growth of larger firms along with a focus on inward investment.

Not a Charity Case
It’s inevitable that whatever LEPs form in and around Birmingham, the ‘Creative’ sector will be articulated within them. But how they articulate them is really quite important. There is established methodology about what the CI are and despite its flaws at least it’s there and established. I worry whenever I see those definitions rejected. Jerry Blackett, current chair of the Creative Birmingham board is arguing for just such a rejection of established definitions and even for a shift in focus towards philanthropy. That feels wrong. Birmingham’s Creative Industries need a business case, not handouts.

I think this position comes from the confusion of thinking that the subsidised Arts sector has much to do with the Creative Industries sector. There’s overlap of course but in Birmingham the two most significant contributors to Creative Industries value have been Architecture (32% of GVA in 2004) and Software (35% of GVA in 2004). Music and Performing Arts are low-value sectors in economic terms (1.1% of GVA in 2004).

Writing in 2006, Calvin Taylor noted that it was:

“significant that the arts lobby mostly uses the creative industry tag. Very few other sector bodies, representing other components of what are taken to be the creative industries, use the tag in their sectors promotion work.”

He went on to warn that in the regions, advocacy for the creative industries must rise to

“the challenge of developing a credible evidence base, without allowing judgements of the attempts made so far to be circumscribed by the pressure to deliver yet more advocacy.”

But this can’t be all about stats. People matter, and how we feel about creativity in the city matters also. There’s a really useful research paper (PDF) that looks at regional creative clusters in Birmingham Newcastle/Gateshead. In their conclusions the authors point out that:

“the city-region is a place for cooperation, not just competition […] personal and emotive dimensions are key factors in the decision of creative practitioners to be located in both city-regions. This personal dimension is often underplayed in the development of creative industries…”

[A version of this, without the fancy tables, will probably make it to my column in next week’s Birmingham Post]

Links for July 13th through July 15th

Some links for you:

Links for July 1st through July 7th

Some links for you:

  • Clay Shirky and the Cognitive Surplus – jon bounds – "What disappoints is that lack of discussion solutions to those problems, it might be that there aren’t any obvious ones but I’d love to see what Clay has to say on the matter — he says how early in his web career he made a mistake in assuming something about people’s behaviour (he didn’t see how people would want poor self-made Geocitites sites after seeing professionally designed sites), perhaps it’s a decision never to predict again."
  • Self-help and civic culture … – Google Books – Looks like a book for current civic minded web types to read.
  • Evernote shared notebook: jhsxswm – Jason Hall's (from Screen West Midlands) notes from a TSB (technology strategy board) event for their Metadata fuding competition.

Walking in the Creative City

View Walking in the Creative City in a larger map

Today (Friday 2nd July 2010) was a great day to be out and about in Birmingham, a quite wonderful creative and vibrant city in case you weren’t aware. Here’s who I met today and who I talked to.

Every morning I face a critical decision. After dropping my son off at his nursery I can either turn right onto the Bristol Road and drive to work in Perry Barr or I go left, park in the station and catch the train. Invariably I go left because I like trains, even rush hour ones, and I have a train pass. Going right means facing traffic usually but actually would get me to work quicker (I have to change trains in Birmingham).

I had a meeting in Birmingham Science Park today so not having the car today meant I had to walk across the city to get from there to where I wanted to end the day, in Birmingham’s best coffee shop, Urban Coffee Co., making use of their wifi and catching up on some tennis. Here’s a list of the great people I talked to today:

At Birmingham Science Park:

  • Met with the good folk at Digital Birmingham about forthcoming events and bored Simon Whitehouse with my masterful mail merge knowledge
  • Loitered in the cafe (free wifi!) and had tutorials (via skype and via phone) with Leland and Simona. Couple of interesting MA projects to come from them.
  • Bumped into Dan. He’s building a business around a great service called civico. He does about a million other things as well.
  • Popped in to see Daden who do a lot of really interesting stuff in virtual worlds.
  • Met two guys from AWM. Both cheerier than you might imagine.
Near Aston Uni:
  • Met with Raj from Digital Birmingham lots to download in a short amount of time. Someone passes and says ‘Hi Dave’ – I haven’t a clue who it is and then feel ashamed when Raj reminds me and I should have known her.
At Old Square
  • I tweet Lee Kemp to say sorry I forgot to chat to him at a conference the other week and thanks for a followfriday.
Near the Cathedral
  • Blimey, if it isn’t Lee Kemp, in person, who needs directions to somewhere. Later, he tweets a really nice thank you for introducing him to someone at said conference where I forgot to chat to him.
Church St.
  • It’s Paul Hadley. A student of mine, a great guy. He’s wearing a suit.
Urban Coffee Co.
Not on the map: I had a nice bacon sarnie at work and had a good phone call with Roy Peters in the morning.

Overall, a great day meeting and bumping into great people in a great City.

Links for June 27th through July 1st

Some links for you:

  • Steve McCurry – Exhibitions and Events – Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery – Must get to this at some point – or send students to it at least. "Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is the sole UK venue for a retrospective of the work of American photo-journalist Steve McCurry, the man who is responsible for some of the worlds most famous photographs."
  • Regional Economic Development | Policies | BIS – "Following the General Election, the Government is committed to building a new economic model. This includes the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships – joint local authority-business bodies brought forward by local authorities themselves to promote local economic development – to replace Regional Development Agencies. in taking this work forward the Government wishes to ensure an orderly transition which maintains focus on delivery. Detailed proposals will follow in due course."
  • Running, data and community | Talk About Local – Something I wrote for Talk About Local website. Re-reading it I'm almost tempted to start a