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London's creative economy: an accidental success?

30 Jun 2007

One of the besetting sins of creative industries policy-making is its obsession with the new, its insistence that everything is changed utterly, and its seeming ignorance, often of its own history. In part this reflects the tangling up of creative industry policy in discourse about the knowledge economy, with its persistent myth-making about novelty. In part it results from its association, with New Labour, the setting up of the Creative Industry Taskforce and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, being early New Labour creations. But the striking thing about any reflection on creative industries policy making is how many of the issues are not new; simply unresolved.

Thus tensions between culture and commerce; London as a global city and a series of neighbourhoods; the subsidised sectors and the market, and leisure and work, continue to resonate in these debates. Questions remain unanswered. At what point does economic policy for culture become cultural policy, and can we ever separate the two? Is policy in London about regional economic development, local community regeneration or international trade? Under what conditions, and by whom, does our culture get made?

The author's argument is not that resolving these issues is simple; but that we have to live with and better understand their complexity and that in particular greater subtlety is required in reassessing culture, work and place.

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