We’re smart enough and have the resources to run our own TV

(Originally published on the Guardian Website Tuesday 16th September)

Claire Enders (What would a Scottish yes mean for democracy, 14 September) claims that “Scotland simply isn’t big enough to support strong independent media”.

She suggests the substitution of a Scottish Broadcasting Service for the BBC in Scotland would reduce media plurality. However, since 1957 Scotland has had an independent commercial station, STV, with a vibrant news and current affairs output, which would continue to offer strong competition to any licence-fee/state-funded broadcaster. Not since the 1980s has Channel 4 had any Scottish current affairs or political output, so the level of plurality would remain unchanged.

She suggests Scotland could not secure a free-to-air deal with the BBC. The licence fee (or post-independence equivalent) in Scotland raises £300m; the pro-rata share of network BBC television is £75m, while BBC Scotland costs £86m. Even if the BBC secured £100m for supplying its services to Scotland (considerably more than Ireland currently pays for the same privilege), that would still leave £200m to fund SBS, radio and online services.

After independence the Scottish parliament and whichever government the people of Scotland elect would shape Scotland’s media regulation. Holyrood, elected on a proportional representation basis, and with much greater cross-party pre–legislative scrutiny, is considerably more democratic than Westminster.

The scanner has been working overtime this week digitising some pre-web documentation of Scotland’s film history and this delightful epistle from Bill Forsyth in the 1986 Edinburgh International Film Festival Programme is just one example

Bill Forsyth letter on That Sinking Feeling EIFF Programme 1986

Sunshine on Leith and Filth zoom into all time Scottish top ten

The latest and, as ever, fascinating annual statistical handbook from the BFI allows the elves here at The Producer’s Cut to update the all-time top Scottish films at the UK Box office (NB Adjusted for inflation) with not one but two films making it into the list from 2013.  Not surprisingly perhaps Sunshine on Leith and Filth, having briefly occupied the number 2 and 3 spots at the UK box office in 2013 have quickly joined the all time Scottish top ten at number 4 and 6 respectively.  Trainspotting remains the undisputed top dog with 25% of the total box office garnered by the ten films and indeed all but one of the top five films are from the 1990s.  Inevitably the definition of ‘Scottish’ used here is subjective – both Rob Roy and Last King of Scotland could be ruled out on production origin terms (as could even Mrs Brown for that matter) but allowing for that caveat we can see that there’s no real pattern to the best-selling Scottish movies other than that from thrillers to a musical they managed to strike a chord with the film-going public.

 

UK Box Office £ (adjusted for inflation)
Trainspotting (1996) 12,331,224
The Last King of Scotland (2006) 5,680,951
Shallow Grave (1995) 5,101,342
Sunshine on Leith (2013) 4,600,000
Rob Roy (1995) 4,352,000
Filth (2013) 3,900,000
This Year’s Love (1999) 3,600,636
Mrs Brown (1997) 2,647,037
Magdalene Sisters (2002) 2,138,934
The Angels Share (2012) 1,928,376
Total 46,280,500

Coming to a cinema near you, possibly

After an absurdly long time (ten years to be precise) I’m pleased to reveal that I’ve got a new film premiering at Filmhouse in Edinburgh next month (or two if you count executive producer credits which of course I don’t :) ) Advising the unquestionably Stellar Quines on the transfer of their hit play The List to the big screen gave me the opportunity to shoot a behind the scenes doc on the collaborative process between film director Morag McKinnon, theatre director Muriel Romanes and Maureen Beattie, star of the one woman play by Canadian dramatist Jennifer Tremblay, translated from the French by Shelly Tepperman. The collaboration was supported by an ‘innovation follow on’ award from the Scottish Funding Council which allowed me to advise Stellar Quines on the creative, commercial and practical aspects of turning theatre into cinema and connect them up with the right talent and skills to realise their ambitions. As it turned out the film director of The List is an Edinburgh Napier graduate, as was the film production manager Lili Sandelin, DIT Mihail Ursu and Karel Dolak the online editor of ‘Filming The List’. Former staff member Rob Walker recorded and mixed the sound for The List while current staff member Ross Buchanan mixed ‘Filming…’. So all in all the whole project has been a shining example of collaboration, both between theatre and film and between university and the arts. Tickets for the Filmhouse screening are on sale now and the films will be in Dundee at DCA on Tuesday 5th. Further dates and venues t.b.c.

More creative industries jobs in Scotland than we thought but most sectors declining

The DCMS have just released their nations/regions breakdowns of creative industries employment in the UK and the Scottish picture is, relatively speaking, somewhat disappointing even if the figures show the number of creative industries and creative economy jobs (more on that distinction later) in Scotland to be more than most recent Scottish estimates calculate.

Across the UK creative industries jobs (creative and support) grew 10% between 2011 and 2013, while in Scotland there was a slight drop from 103,000 to 102,000 according to the DCMS count.  In the wider ‘Creative Economy’ (which includes creative jobs in non-creative industries) every sub-sector bar two (Architecture and IT) recorded falls in employment with the total dropping from 166,000 in 2011 to 163,000 in 2013. The sectors recording the highest falls were Advertising and Marketing ( -2000 jobs) Crafts (-2000) and Design (-2000) with the highest riser being IT, software and computing services (+8000).  The presence of the latter in Creative Industries statistics is a continuing issues as many of these jobs are not in fact creative industries related at all and as this sector accounts for one third of the total jobs its increase of 7000 jobs over the two years masks the falls elsewhere.

Whereas every other area in the UK shows an increase in creative industries employment as a proportion of total employment between 2011 and 2013 averaging 0.5% and up to 1.2% in the East of England, only Northern Ireland and Scotland record a drop, albeit a statistically insignificant 0.1%.

Scotland’s 102,000 creative industries jobs (NB jobs in the creative industries only, the creative ‘economy – see below) account for 6.3% Scottish employment total compared to the 8.5% UK average (a total of 1.7m jobs).  However setting aside London (16.2%) and the South East (10.1%) that’s on a par with most of the rest of the UK barring the East of England (8.3%) and the South West (7.6%).

With 163,000 of the 2.6m UK Creative Economy jobs (NB ‘Creative Economy’ counts creative jobs in non-creative Industries) Scotland’s share has fallen more (-0.6%) than anywhere other than the East of England (-0.8%).

That these figures are very different from those used in recent discussion of Scotland’s creative industries comes as no surprise to those of us with an unhealthy interest in comparative methodologies but is a real problem in trying to get to any sort of coherent policy discussion about what needs to be done to support both overall growth and the specific needs of individual sectors.

The first ever film mashup?

Readers with long memories will recall this 2012 post on how Jean Renoir started film crowd funding.  Well the ever fascinating media historian Bert Hogenkamp has uncovered another bit of ‘nothing new under the sun’ in his contribution to the BFI/McMillan ‘The Documentary Film Book‘.  This time it’s an early example of what we would think of as a video ‘mashup’ by renowned activist documentarian Joris Ivens.ivens mashup

Don’t let our creative talent go to waste

[If you missed it or have difficulty accessing it on the Scotsman site here’s my Tuesday opinion piece on Creative Education with added LINKS TO SOURCES. This article is one of various to be debated at a late June RSA Fellows’ Media, Creative Industries, Culture & Heritage Network event “Visions, Irrespective” [of the Referendum].]

If Scotland post-referendum is to fully realize the cultural, economic and social potential of the arts and creative industries we will have to work harder to encourage young people’s creativity both inside and outside education.

Though no-one seems quite able to agree the precise scope and definition of the creative industries, one thing is indisputable – individual talent and creativity is central to their growth and sustainability. The UK creative industries as a whole grew at a rate three times that of any other major economic sector between 2008 and 2012.  But such a prodigious growth rate won’t be achieved in Scotland without more attention being paid to how we identify, nurture and retain the content producers of the future. Indeed, over that same four year period Scotland’s creative industries have stood still or declined in terms of turnover, gross value added and employment.

Politicians of all stripes continue to assert the importance of creativity – from Jack McConnell’s St Andrews Day speech in 2003 “placing culture at the heart of Government” to Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop’s belief that “an independent Scotland will be a place where our arts, our creativity and our heritage is collectively celebrated, valued, nurtured and supported across the public, private and third sector”. But are we doing enough to make that vision a reality, particularly in and around our schools and institutions of further and higher education?

The introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence has been an important step towards an environment in which creativity is valued both for its intrinsic value and its growing significance to our economic future while the recent Government and multi-agency ‘Scotland’s Creative Learning Plan’ is a vital step forward but needs real additional investment to achieve its commendable vision.

A good gauge of how seriously an education system, and learners, take a subject is which qualifications are studied. In Scotland, around 9% of Higher entries in 2012 were in ‘creative industries’ subjects (advertising, marketing, drama, media, music photography, visual arts), the same proportion as in 2008. Over the same period in England and Wales A-level entries in creative industries subjects rose from 13 to 14.5% of the total – a significantly higher proportion.  If Scotland is to avoid falling further behind in educating the people who will fuel our creative economy as well as sustain our arts and cultural life, then we need to address our School provision with more determination – and resources.

What happens outside school is equally important and here too there are signs of progress, but still a great deal more to do.  The recently launched National Youth Arts Strategy and the development of regional youth arts hubs will do much to spread Government resources more evenly around the country.  But disciplines which bridge arts and the wider creative industries – such as design or architecture – are still too easily overlooked in strategies focused on visual and performing arts.  Many hope that when the V&A Dundee eventually opens it will stimulate greater interest amongst young people in design as a career.  However, without a truly Scotland-wide commitment to providing young people with access to inspiring design and designers in their local area, we risk failing to mobilise their imaginations and aspirations.

Similarly, Government investment in the Youth Music Initiative has helped mitigate the long term decline in local authority support for instrumental tuition.  But we could do a lot more, nationally, to develop the interface between musical talent, technical and commercial skills – for example ensuring young artists, producers and audio specialists have opportunities to come together to develop, record and market their work.  There is great work of this kind going on, for example between Shetland College and the multi-arts centre Mareel, but many parts of Scotland lack this kind of joined up provision.

Across the country our Further and Higher Education Institutions offer a wealth of opportunities for young creative talent. And talent we undoubtedly have, as my own university’s arts and creative industries degree show, and those of other universities and colleges, will publicly showcase this spring. Nonetheless, the sector remains relatively poorly resourced, while the system which feeds them is still something of a postcode lottery.  The long awaited Skills Development Scotland Investment Plan for the Creative Industries should help focus energies in the skills sector.  Rightly so. Because both for their intrinsic value and their potential to contribute much more to Scotland’s economy, creative talent can and should be placed much more firmly on the education agenda.


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