Birmingham Creatives – I can’t hear you

Cross-posted from my blog at the Birmingham Post.

Actually I can hear some of you, particularly those of you that are on the same social networks as me or that I happen upon as result of my work. I can hear you loud and clear and you’ve got lots to say about this city and how it values or doesn’t value the arts and why what you do matters. What I can’t hear is the voice of the organisation that’s been set up to represent you collectively. Or to put it another way: what’s the point of Creative Republic? If they’re the voice of the creative sector aiming to make it “stronger, louder and more effective” then why does it all seem a bit quiet out there.

Actually they have had a few events, one as recently as June during which creatives got to mingle and have a nice drink. In fact the Facebook invite for the last event emphasised: “No Pack Drill… No Speeches… And No Charge”. That struck me as pretty depressing for an organisation that’s trying to represent us at the highest level in the city. So that’s an event that won’t be asking creatives how they want to be represented? No chance for attendees to have their say? No ‘we’ll fight them on the beaches’ rallying call for creatives to raise up their pens/brushes/mice/cameras and get themselves known and heard? No chance for the next generation of creative leaders to push themselves to the front of the room and tell their colleagues why they can make change happen?

There’s an economic downturn under way. Maybe it won’t be too bad but research tells us that growth in the Creative Industries are cyclical, that is, when the economy grows they grow more but when it slides they slide more. So we might be entering a downturn that puts the jobs of regional creatives on the line. Not just in service sector jobs such as design and interactive media but in cuts to the arts and support organisations. We should be ideally placed in having an organisation like Creative Republic to point out to city fathers that even if times get bad we’re worth sticking with. If Brum wants to be a must-live place then it should continue to support the arts no matter how sticky those council meetings get.

I have no doubt that there’s plenty of politicking going on by Creative Republic board members behind the scenes but why is it so quiet? Do they have a view on the impending closure of Culture West Midlands, the organisation from which it takes it statistics? How does it feel about Advantage West Midlands’ strategy for the Digital Media and Music sector?

As I understand it Created in Birmingham is part of the Creative Republic set up but that serves a different function – that’s about saying “come and look at all this great stuff happening in Birmingham’s creative scene”. What’s needed instead is a voice (a blog would be a start) that reflects what Creative Republic is trying to be – a political organisation that has an opinion and is fighting the good fight for the city’s creatives.

Politics and policy are dominated by the voice of business at the moment and here we are with an organisation that has a real chance to be the voice of the worker – for that we need pack drills and speeches rather than a free drink and cosy chat.