On the face of it, the Creative Industries Federation is a good thing. The coming together of some 230 organisations from the BBC and Tate to Kent County Council, Harvey Nichols and agencies like Made by Many and Tangerine to lobby government and carry out research can only help redress the perceived downgrading of creativity, particularly in education.
It looks like the initiator Sir John Sorrell has played another blinder in bringing together creative enterprises and engaging government in the process. He tried it in the 1990s as then chairman of the Design Council, though has been closer to achieving it through the annual London Design Festival, which he instigated some 10 years ago.
The federation has already exposed a shift in thinking in Whitehall about the importance of creative industries. At the launch on Monday, George Osborne spoke not just of wealth creation – the government’s top line on creative pursuits since Margaret Thatcher’s reign of terror in the 1980s. The chancellor spoke too of their cultural significance.
That line is politically astute, given that every national arts organisation worth its salt has pledged allegiance to the federation. Such diversity could be a strength, but how do you square the needs of, say, the National Theatre and Yorkshire Sculpture Park with those of advertising and design? How indeed do you corral opinion and come up with a common voice? These are among the big challenges facing federation director John Kampfner.
Creative education is, meanwhile, a hot topic for politicians and practitioners alike. It is represented within the federation by the likes of the Royal College of Art and University of the Arts London and with education stalwart Sorrell orchestrating proceedings as chairman is likely to be a key theme. But will the UK system benefit or be even more sidelined by the concerns of more powerful cultural and commercial bodies?
There is certainly a naivety in Kampfner’s question, ‘Why is creative education so denigrated when it is providing the next generation of talent.’ Why indeed? But as federation head will he continue to bemoan soaring costs to students and low investment in teaching and facilities or will he champion new ways of bringing that talent into the creative sector?
And what of the bodies already bent on lobbying and research? It’s unlikely that the Design Business Association will abandon its new push to offer advocacy or the Design Council give up its research programmes and government dealings – and that is just in design. There are a lot of vested interests out there.
Let’s hope Kampfner and co make a success of the federation. The creative industries certainly need a more unified approach to government and beyond. But it’s important that the richly varied parties don't become homogenised or even worst that the federation becomes yet another player in the burgeoning bunch of UK bodies representing creativity.
Lynda Relph-Knight is The Drum's consulting design editor. You can follow her on Twitter @RelphKnight
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