The people who control the Funding are damaging the Creative Industries in The West Midlands

Read the full article by Anthony J. Hughes here.

Funding procedures and practice and the funding and economic redevelopment projects aimed at supporting ‘creative industries’ has actually become a system supporting government ‘intervention[1]’ and policy. That policy has either intentionally or inadvertently become a controlling factor in the human act of creativity and now acts in a legislative, often excluding manner and is often damaging for the industries it claims to ‘support’[2].

The funding system has led to: –

1               A skewed artificial view of the creative industries in both nature, practice, shape, scope and for the purposes of counting economic value attached to it.

2               A new industry[3] which originated as a parasite on the back of creativity – and has now been extremely manipulative in reversing the role. This new ‘industry’ is policed by civil servants, accountants, admin paper pushers and is predominantly made up of those who are not from a creative background and have little or no understanding of the nature of either creativity or indeed commercial practice.

3               This layer of industry has a workforce skilled only in administrative practice and procedure.

4               This industry began to recognize its lack of credibility and sought to legitimize its position of ‘superiority’ over the creative industry by creating often unnecessary layers of beaurocracy and or statistical data analysis which bares no resemblance to the nature shape or practice of the business. In more recent years it has transcended this feeling of inadequacy and in a process of self promotion and sheer ignorance now largely believes in it’s own myth.

5               Because of this the funding system[4] is often flawed in it’s remit and misunderstands the nature of the industry. It has done two things: –
a)     Imposed artificial rules on creativity and therefore the creative process.
b)    Generated a need to either alter the course of original concept in order to gain financial support or cause the creative practitioner to give false indication as to the intention to meet those inappropriate requirements and outcomes.

6               The result is that the new industry of bid writers have taken up a very old industry mantle which solicits money under false pretenses – this used to be called extortion.

With this in mind we are currently at an important time for the creative accounting. The mad dash to spend spend spend which inevitably results in Shit Shit Shit!

If only there was a way to be…well…thrifty or selective in these times of tax-payer-benefactor[5]. If only there was a recognition for spending on the worthwhile and handing back if there weren’t enough interesting and culturally engaging things to ‘buy’. If only the decision was made by those who actually know something of the business and arts they are  ‘supporting’ If only they had ever run a business themselves – or even worked in the sector – or even worked in the commercial world.

But no, the directive engineered from policy (Government[6]) is ‘If you haven’t spent it this year then you don’t get it next year’[7] – which is basically saying creativity is a constant state and never deviates in volume. If you have set the bench mark at the start of the process then it remains the bench mark.

In fact – what we are talking about is imposing mechanical economic and fiscal practice on creativity.

It’s odd that to value creativity we need to align it with financial value and business terminology.

Are you creative? Come and see our business advisor…Have you got a good idea? Come and help us spend some money to provide us with an unnecessary position.

When the government foisted the ‘creative industries’ banner on us they were both insightful and manipulative. They also, without fail, get it spectacularly wrong. Where they are clever is in instilling plans through the route to everyone’s heart in these sorry times of economic downfall – CASH.

But only a little bit and never enough to create true independence from the hand that feeds.

5 – 10 years ago if I would ask any designer, musician, writer sculptor or painter if they see themselves as industry? The answer would be largely ‘No I am an artist’.

Well here’s the thing, ask the new generation of ‘creatives’ if they are industry and the answer is invariably ‘yes – I work in the creative industries’ so entrenched is this idea and terminology that within 5 years we have lost the right to be creative for the sake of it. Oh Thatcher you did wonders stamping out individuality.

The first to go were the independent art colleges – swallowed up by the dash to become a University by capacity rather than by design or accomplishment – not so much red brick as breeze block. There is no place for creativity in the traditional sense, free thinking, political insightful and dangerous. Does society really see creatives as lazy near-do-well’s or has government driven media created this notion? Was the lottery ever set up to subsidize Mrs. Jones’s hip op? Why have we consistently had the notion of a conflict between arts funding and health? And why do we have a whole layer of bureaucracy, civil servants, accountants, and now university teachers who perpetuate this nonsense because it makes for more interesting paperwork?

We have been assimilated by buzz words and business strategy and slowly grown dependant on funding in order to even create. What we have now is creativity by committee. If you want to create you have to follow the prescribed rules of engagement. You have to create by government design and in their own image. In short we have replaced the disproportionate scale of the once wealthy patrons alongside the slightly smaller religious figures with the same design albeit without the lapis Lazuli emblazoned clothes. Those writing the cheques are now the larger of the saints.

Where once we found the Catholic church peddling it’s own visual propaganda, we find a new religion peddling spending power.

Where once collectors were benefactors or there to be harbingers of good taste, we have a whole new industry of bid writers[8]

Creativity if it is an industry SIC code based business is in decline due exactly to those who purport to help and ‘advise’ it.
Businesses are closing daily and being replaced with funded projects who occupy the market sector with ‘free’ services. Free web design, Free video, Free marketing, Free business advice and free representation to governments and think tanks – but at what cost?

Ask any client whether they would like to buy a service or have it for nothing and guess what the answer is?

Ask any SME if they can offer a service cheaper than free? and well…

Real business with overheads are either propped up by funding themselves – usually distracted from core activity or being replaced with funded trading arms of universities and other education establishments who masquerade as profit making. RDA funded initiatives who have a finite life-span on the life support of the funding whims of those ‘in the know’. And we have the cartels who sit at every panel, discussion group and decision making board carving up  the spoils of the governments lame attempts to benefit the arts and emerging imaginary ‘digital revolution’. Those who write the opportunities and publish them reluctantly in the most obscure sites and papers so as to be ‘transparent’ in complying with the rules – but leaving little or no opportunity for anyone to bid for or win the funds which are already allocated to the usual suspects.

The system is corrupt, ineffective and manipulative. The system is not supporting creative industries – it is killing it!

[1] Intervention (Pr;- in-ter-feer-ing) – slang passed into popular parlance by repeated use in answer to criticism from the creative businesses about the one way didactic maner of knowledge transfer partnerships and other legitimizing tactics employed to gain some industry credibility by those with non.

[2] Support in this context meaning benefit by association with.

[3] RDA’s, Arts Funding Agencies, Socio-political and cultural agenda groups, associated and off-spring satellite groups both public and private sector. Professional and non professional bid writers and cultural ambassador groups with no remit perpetuating the ‘creative class’ theory of richard florida – Oh yes we’ve all read him so stop pretending you are so clever.

[4] Funding system has now become synonymous with the industry it uses as hostage.

[5] Term first coined by Anthony J Hughes 2008 all copyright reserved

[6] The self serving self perpetuating media elected business that offers a lip-service democracy to pacify the masses and avoid scenes of revolution and public execution.

[7] Approximation of the funding regime imposed by government/s summarized to a one-liner for the purpose of those who need help reading.

[8] This was formerly known as extortion – the gaining of moneys under false pretenses

3 Comments

  1. EXPECT AN EBOOK ON MY EXPERIENCES REGARDING LOCAL ARTS ORGS.

    CORRUPT DOESN’T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE IT.

  2. Thoughtful piece. Right on the mark. Relevant to W. Midlands creatives and to creatives around the world facing the temptation of getting in the cage to get the $$$.

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