The last few days, weeks and months have presented us with a long list of doom and gloom as far as the economy goes. What has been happening in Birmingham and the region is making me, for one, feel like I’ve been transported back to the 1980s when the City seemed to have no rationale to exist so rapid was the decline into a ‘post-industrial’ condition. Today’s Birmingham Post reports the loss of 600 jobs at GKN while the situation at Jaguar Land Rover continues to concern us all. Closer to my working community, within University cloisters, discussion of projects is regularly conditioned by the phrase ‘in the current climate’, indicating the belt-tightening affecting us all.
For good reason, economic and employment stories focus on the big picture and big hitters like the car industry, banking and so on. However, after years of investment (economic, intellectual, collective faith, hope etc), in the regeneration of City and region, hinged upon the cultural and creative enterprises, how fare these sectors (as well as our faith and hopes), ‘in the current climate’?
There have been a lot of emphatic claims about the worth of CCI to the economy, levels of employment (some of which has been wildly exaggerated) and its importance to the region. While there are many large-scale employers in the region (some broadcasters, games companies), many individuals work as freelancers, running SMEs etc. Making sense of this sector, work conditions and prospects at the best of times has been characterised by some imprecision, perhaps because of a promotional boosterism (which might have been a productive strategy if you think I’m being critical).
At the ground level, how ARE creative workers and these companies faring? How do they feel they are treated in the local economy that has, by any estimation, thanks to Businesslink etc, proven to be supportive and generous? Given the non-economic rewards involved in CCI work (which is qualitatively different to, say, working in a metal forge), the satisfying, stimulating aspects which support humanity and individualism behind such career choices and commitment – can people keep going?
It may be asking a lot of individuals in such precarious times (and when has running an SME never been so?), to offer insight into their experiences, conditions and relationships but I’m asking. Our job in our research at ‘Interactive Cultures’ has been to engage in ‘knowledge exchange’ and so I think ‘in the current climate’, we need some empirical insight into the knowledge that those on the ground have and are generating as they strive to maintain their livelihoods.
I’d like to take this opportunity therefore to invite testimonies, comments, thoughts, ideas, advice from the CCI sector on the ‘current climate’ and what, if anything we could do about it. Doing something might be a responsibility of Universities like my own, local government, workers themselves – you tell me.
Those who read this blog, please circulate it and this call to cohere information, links, discussion and evaluation of what is happening to creative workers and the broadly defined creative industries in ‘the current climate’. We would genuinely like to hear from you.