I’m here to do what David Davis failed to do yesterday. Give you a wee bit of reassurance on post-Brexit Britain. I know … bear with me.
Davis has to win some award for how not to manage your political communications. If you are at all worried that your opponents may perceive something fundamentally wrong in your political strategy, and are likely to describe it as a shambles, chaos or, let’s say, a dystopian nightmare of epic proportions … don’t then make a speech where the most interesting and quotable line is a reference to Mad Max – a horror film about a bleak, dystopian future nightmare also known as Brexit or chicken shortages at KFC.
If only Tina Turner could swoop in and take over our Brexit negotiations. I actually feel sorry for Davis. All this Brexit malarkey started off as a bit of bantz and it’s now a living hell for him as the never-ending complexity and difficulties of the divorce become clear. Every time we see him he looks like he’s spent the night in the cells. It’s not a good look.
There is much to be worried about Brexit from the economic forecasts to the fact that we have produce rotting in our fields because we can’t get the labour to pick them. But there is also a tiny glimmer of good news, just for the sake of balance. As most of our traditional manufacturing and heavy industry like coal and steel has suffered over the decades, there is a sector which we are very good at, the rest of world loves to buy, and which is on the rise – our creative industries.
For a small island, we are very good at creating things which are artistically excellent and acclaimed and which are also popular and which people want to buy. Our music, film, fashion, literature, design, television, games, theatre and all the rest are seen as the best on the planet. This week is a global showcase for Britain’s creative industries – London Fashion Week, the Baftas and the Brit awards. I was delighted to be at the Baftas on Sunday and will be attending the Brits tonight. Didn’t get the invite for Fashion Week (note to self to stop wearing scruffy clothes and stop eating carbs – actually cancel that memo – life’s too short to not eat toast).
I feel I did my bit to support the British film industry by trying to steal someone’s award at the after-party and crawling home at 4am. “Still got it hen,” said my proud Scottish cab driver as I fell out the taxi giving him the thumbs up. You can take the girl out of Coatbridge … I will endeavour to show the same unflinching support for the music industry at the Brits this evening.
As a nation, we punch well above our weight in terms of commercial success. Our ideas and thoughts are big business and one of our biggest exports. Publishing is worth £3.1bn, music £2.5bn and television £1.3bn. The creative industries account for £92bn of value added and are growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy. When you watch the Brits, it is worth remembering that we are the largest exporter of recorded music in the world after the US, accounting for one in every eight albums sold globally. Everywhere you go in the world, people know our songs, read our books and watch our films.
So, while there is much economic doom and gloom about the future, we should do all we can to help our creative hearts and minds thrive and support the sector. At the heart of the business model for creative industry of any kind are intellectual property rights, which enable the creators and artists to make a living from their work and protect it from being copied and given away for free – unless that’s what they want. The UK has worked hard to make sure there is a strong and fair intellectual property regime across Europe but there are concerns about what happens when we leave the EU and also when we come to hopefully cut trade deals with countries like India, China and Brazil. The Alliance for Intellectual Property recently published a report which made the point that any future trade negotiations must make sure that these important intellectual property rights are maintained and not watered down. We also have to make sure that creative talent can travel freely across Europe when we leave teh EU, including actors, musicians and behind the scenes technical experts.
But cultural and creative products also go beyond the commercial bottom line, they help connect people on a deeper level and help break down some of the traditional political and social barriers. Cultural connections are a smart way to engage on a diplomatic level.
Embassies around the world and organisations such as the British Council often try to use the arts and creative talent, not just as the entertainment, for the evening, but to forge new partnerships. And, of course, culture and the arts can be a huge reason to travel and give tourism a boost. Edinburgh’s many festivals, including the Fringe, Book and Film ones, are a unique and world-famous cultural phenomenon which together attract over four million people each year according to Convention Edinburgh. The festivals have helped make Edinburgh an internationally renowned city.
At a time when domestic, European and global politics have gone slightly “Mad Max” to coin a phrase, this soft power becomes all the more important. Our artists and creative talent are real superstars and ambassadors. We should do all we can to support them and help new talent thrive all over the country and from all different backgrounds. Their work not only brings in huge revenue for the economy, it helps us make sense of who we are and encourages the rest of world admire us as a country.
Our artists and creators do something very special – they tell universal human stories which transcend borders and ideology with such skill, beauty and passion. And let’s be honest, that’s far more appealing than a night out with David Davis.