Funding of the arts and heritage - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by New Deal of the Mind (NDotM) (arts 132)

SUMMARY

  New Deal of the Mind (NDotM) is a charity which helps people into work in the arts and creative sectors, formed from a coalition of artists, entrepreneurs and opinion formers who recognise the economic, social and cultural value of Britain's creative talent.

    — We have developed over 100 creative jobs since March 2009 and will have created hundreds more by the end of next year.

    — We know a thriving creative sector is vital to the UK's future economic recovery.

    — Arts and culture help regeneration, create jobs and boost innovation in the wider economy.

    — Our research shows aspiring artists and creatives want practical help, not handouts.

    — An Enterprise Allowance Scheme for the 21st century would be a cost effective way to help build the next generation of creative entrepreneurs.

    — Imaginative indirect funding and support might include mentoring, business and financial advice, workspace and apprenticeships.

    — There should be greater understanding of flexible freelancing and self employment.

    — Economies of scale can and do work—we've proved it and work with government, entrepreneurs, artists and cultural institutions.

SUBMISSION

  1.  Getting into the arts and the creative industries is tough. Being unemployed is worse but our research shows that young artists and creative entrepreneurs would rather endure personal hardship in order to pursue their ambitions and their tenacity and dedication is astonishing. These are the people with the drive, commitment and talent to create new business that will be so essential to helping the UK back to economic recovery.

  2.  Job vacancies are seldom advertised, unpaid internships are commonplace thus reinforcing the view that working in the arts is only for the well off or well connected. Consequently, ethnic minorities are seriously under represented as are people from less affluent backgrounds. We have proved that by working with partners and applying economies of scale, it has been possible to create jobs in the arts and cultural sectors which have given hundreds of unemployed young people the chance of six months paid work, gaining valuable experience, skills and a foot in the door. The majority of those would not have been able to afford to work as unpaid interns and had no personal connections to help so their chances of getting a job in this sector without NDotM would have been remote.

  3.  Although the jobs are funded through the FJF, it was NDotM that made FJF flexible and relevant to the arts and cultural sector by putting in a joint bid for FJF jobs on behalf of scores of arts organisation who were not offering enough placements to be eligible on their own and in some cases, simply didn't have the capacity to deal with the bureaucracy of applying anyway. This was a good example of how working with multiple partners achieved a good outcome through pragmatism and practicality.

  4.  Support and advice for people setting up on their own is patchy but the places such as The Enterprise Centre at the Bernie Grant Centre in North London and similar "hubs" across the UK, shows that they can support local creative businesses. Some are run by local authorities, arts centres or community groups in response to local demand By their very nature, many of these tiny enterprises are run in an unstructured way by independent, non conformist individuals which makes it hard for them to move easily to the next stage in business growth and where sharing access to financial and business mentoring, space and infrastructure support could have a huge impact. This is the sort of indirect or relatively small investment that could pay huge dividends in terms of strengthened communities, sustainable local business and help build a competitive and innovative economy for the future.

  5.  NDotM would welcome active encouragement of creative hubs or incubators across the UK which we believe could help foster innovative local approaches by drawing on the experience, skills and support of local people through enterprise agencies, community groups, trades unions and chambers of commerce, charities, arts and cultural organisations. Local authorities could help with planning, leases and business rates while local businesses could be encouraged to rent out unused office space to creative start-ups but there needs to be a trade off around skills not just cash. NDotM is currently engaged in research for a report, commissioned by Enterprise UK which will look at a range of different options and experiences from across the UK for such creative hubs or incubators.

  6.  The area of gaining work experience for those wanting to run their own business is one where NDOtM would welcome the idea of a limited FJF style short term paid work placement programme that would put suitable unemployed young people working alongside self employed people. The potential benefits for both parties are clear but would be particularly relevant to a young creative entrepreneur learning the ropes of running their own business where some skills are as valid for a plumber or musician.

  7. The financial contribution to the UK economy of the creative industries is widely recognised to be in the region of £50 billion a year. Representing an estimated 6.4% of the economy, the UK's creative sector is the biggest in the EU and, according to research published in February 2009 by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) likely to employ more people than the financial sector by 2013. That is even more astonishing when you consider that 85 of creative businesses employ fewer than five people. The same research reckoned the rate of growth of the creative sector is double that of the rest of the economy. Evidence of how regeneration based on arts and culture can have a beneficial impact on the local economy and communities can be seen in Newcastle, Brighton, Manchester, East London, Folkestone, Derry and Glasgow among many other places.

  8.  In March 2010, NDotM published a report (attached separately) commissioned by Arts Council England called, " Creative Survival in Hard Times" which provided a valuable insight into the obstacles and barriers facing young people wanting to pursue a career in the arts and creative sector, and offered several recommendations for government and arts institutions. We interviewed young artists and creative entrepreneurs and found that overwhelmingly they wanted work space, access to information, mentoring and business skills. Low cost but highly practical interventions that could make a big difference to their lives were far higher on their list of priorities than money. Some argued against public financial support because they didn't believe "hard working midwives and teachers" should pay for them to follow their dreams. But they did argue for the rules on working and claiming benefit to be changed so that they could more easily start up as freelancers. Within government departments and Jobcentres, there is a cultural acceptance of very narrow definitions of work—someone is either an employee or employer and there is very limited understanding of freelancing, self employment, short term contracts or other ways of working that are so predominant in the arts and creative sector. Because of that, there is a lack of flexibility around benefits where it is actually easier to stay on JSA than take a short term contract which may lead to more paid work but would endanger someone having to start registering for JSA all over again once a short term contract ended. This " Snakes and Ladders" experience actively discourages people from taking a chance on a temporary job which would give them valuable experience, self confidence and networking opportunities and seems to be totally contradicting any stated desire to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. As a starting point, current provisions for paying self-employment credit could be simplified and publicised and for payment to be extended from 16 weeks to a year which would encourage some jobseekers to take a self-employed option. Those we interviewed for "Creative Survival" did not think it rational to be offered unemployment benefit to do nothing or to work for nothing. If they are to receive benefits, they would rather be given financial help to set up a creative business where any financial help should encourage productive self employment.

  9.  Our experience and research underlines the sense that that most would-be creatives value their freedom and independence and would not exchange it for a better-paid regular job. They are therefore willing to take casual, low paid work and consequently miss out on any advice and help available to people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. It is these same people who are most likely to become the successful creative entrepreneurs and artists of the future—not least because of their commitment, self belief and willingness to make personal sacrifice in order to fulfill their creative dreams. As one of "Creative Survival's" co-authors said, "Although the creative sector is widely recognised as key to economic recovery, we treat those who are striving to work in the creative industries abominably with low pay, long internships and little help with professional training."

  10.  NDotM grew out an article by Martin Bright in which he called for an imaginative approach to unemployment based on President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS) which was brought in by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980's. Introduced by US President Roosevelt in the depths of the 1930's Depression, the WPA created 3,500 branch libraries, 4,400 musical performances every month, a national collection of oral histories featuring featured the stories of the last living slaves and hundreds of thousands of jobs for artists, writers, musicians, designers and other creatives. Among the artists and writers supported through the WPA were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Ralph Ellison. What was hugely significant was the recognition that arts, culture and creativity are not just an "add-on" for the good times but are essential forces for economic, social and cultural good that allow ideas to blossom, knit communities together and leave a legacy of music, art, theatre, literature, design and heritage for everyone.

  11.  Some economists credit the EAS with enabling the UK's creative economy to surge ahead of international competitors in the decade to 1991. The National Audit Office found the EAS was successful in terms of cost-benefit outcomes and compared favourably with other employment measure. We know that businesses set up under the EAS had a greater success rate than the average start up with some 65% still trading three years after launch. In many instances, these same businesses employed local people and put money back into the local economy. It is well documented that former beneficiaries of the EAS include Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records, Julian Dunkerton who set up the Superdry fashion label, the artists Jane and Louise Wilson and many other successful entrepreneurs. We believe the time is right for an EAS for the 21st century which would encourage people to set up on their own, kick start new creative enterprises and fan the flames of entrepreneurship which has always played such an important role in the UK's success, particularly in the fields of design, technology and innovation.

  12.  In conclusion, our experience of helping young unemployed people into jobs in the arts and creative sector, working with a range of partners, has shown us that investment in individuals is just as important as investment in institutions. In this difficult economic climate, it is vital to be flexible and imaginative. That means looking at practical measures that will help nurture and support the next generation of creative entrepreneurs and artists such as space and advice. There must be improved mechanisms for widening the intake of people working in the arts which means a more flexible approach to freelancing and self employment which would also help older people whose circumstances may have changed, as well as young people starting out. Just as the arts and creative sector cannot rely on state handouts,neither should it rely on the ability of a few people from a very narrow section of society to work for free to attract new talent. The arts encompasses opera to DJ decks, games design, dance, fashion, digitisation of archives, creating new buildings, conserving old ones and breathing new life into our towns and cities, so we should seek to use all measures possible to encourage jobs in the arts for an equally diverse range of people. That doesn't mean a blank cheque but it does mean some innovative thinking and being as imaginative and creative as those we seek to encourage—a small investment in the risk takers could pay huge dividends to the UK—socially, culturally and economically.

September 2010





 
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