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Archive for May, 2011

The whole world watched the Royal Wedding. Well, an estimated two billion people saw Kate walk up the aisle to marry her Prince. Enough people to prove that London is the greatest show on earth, current capital of world culture, the conurbation in which creative industries are uniquely concentrated, etc etc.

Surely.

But if culture industry is so well established in London, where is the established workforce? The London spectacle features members of the establishment, e.g. William and Kate, but nice work in the creative sector is spectacularly casual (even if you can get it), as many of Will and Kate’s contemporaries have discovered.

Those who are (sometimes) employed in London’s creative sector are more precariat than proletariat. Their current existence is as precarious as all those ageing thesps who spent as much time  ‘resting’ as acting. But London’s West End never constituted a ‘theatre industry’; and local deployment of the term ‘creative industries‘ is as euphemistic as an elderly actor glossing over his years of unemployment.

OK, you can’t be sure of getting a regular wage for it, but there’s a whole lot of creativity going on in London, right?

There’s lots going on, certainly, but how creative is it? Much of what comes out of the ‘creative hub’ is surprisingly ‘source dependent’: it relies too much and too directly on acknowledged sources, which remain largely undigested, like student essays with the tell tale reference at the end, and only at the end, of each successive paragraph.

I was reminded of this trait when, prompted by my daughter, I listened to Plan B’s Brit Award-winning album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. There was the Tamla Motown section, the Smokey Robinson paragraphs, a James Brown subheading, the Eminem digression, even a footnote to The Stooges. I enjoyed the album, not only because I happen to like the sources which it depends on; but I liked it as an intelligent example of curation. That is, what we have to make do with when there is relatively little origination.

Not that I’m suggesting Plan B has learned his trade from the way some students cut and paste their essays. But I do think this East Londoner may have picked up his way of working from the City, in which an object that originated elsewhere, i.e. the value arising from industrial production outside the UK, is packaged and re-packaged in a spiral of derivatives.

The people who put derivatives together are as sharp as Plan B; but that doesn’t mean they are truly creative.

In my book – actually, in the forthcoming book Fictitious Capital by members of the London East Research Institute – London’s creativity is no more and no less real than the funny money which London currently lives by.

Perhaps we’d better not be bullish about our ‘creative industries’, since this city has already resorted to a Plan B of financial services and a corresponding culture.

Andrew Calcutt will be speaking in the LERI group and chairing the ‘Grey Skies’ session at Creative Futures

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Creative Futures? Exploring the Creative & Media Arts in the University and Beyond

A One-Day Conference at the University of East London

Thursday June 2nd, 9.30am – 5pm, Docklands Campus

Creative arts and media have been one of higher education’s biggest success stories over the last decade. Student numbers have increased, the range of programmes on offer has expanded, while employment in the sector has grown at a faster rate than in the wider economy.

Higher education courses engage with the ‘creative industries’ in diverse ways, yet funding and other challenges give particular urgency to questions about the purposes, strategies and values of education going forward. The removal of public subsidy for teaching beyond science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) subjects and the dramatic planned rise in tuition fees have led to renewed stress upon the direct economic utility of courses and calls for greater alignment with the industries they are called upon to serve.

The ‘creative industries’ have now come to occupy a central place across national policies, the economy, and higher education agendas, yet in the context of such significant shifts, infrastructurally and ideologically, there is urgent need for intellectual reflection and analysis. What various perspectives on the creative industries are being promoted in policy agendas? What implications do these have for University provision and activities? What are the challenges for combining critical enquiry, professional utility, vocationalism, and social value?

As we prepare for radical change in the funding environment, this conference brings together academics, students, policy makers and practitioners to critically consider the future for media and creative arts education.

Keynote speakers include Professor Nick Couldry (Goldsmiths), Marc Isaacs (BAFTA winning filmmaker & UEL graduate; All White in Barking, Travellers), John Newbigin (Chairman of Creative England; to be confirmed), Helen Burrows (Demos), David Powell (DPA).

This is a free event. To reserve a place please contact Stephen Maddison, Field Leader for Cultural Studies & Creative Industries, UEL, s.maddison@uel.ac.uk.

After the Creative Futures conference there will be two Degree Showcases at UEL’s Docklands Campus. The Creative Futures Degree Showcase, starting at 5pm in the Multimedia Production Centre, will celebrate Creative Arts practice in Film, Photography, Computer Games Design, Interactive & Multimedia, Advertising, Media Studies, Journalism, Music, and Creative Writing. The Architecture and Visual Arts Showcase 2011 will present the Visual Arts Degree Show, opened by Gavin Turk.

Creative Futures is supported through the University’s Creative Community Fund – a scheme to promote innovations in creative sector teaching, practice and research.

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