The creative industries – the media industries, arts and services like design and architecture – have been the focus of policy attention, support and funding for some two decades and more. And not just in the UK. This is a global phenomenon with governments across the world rushing to invest in what is seen as a source of high- value jobs and economic growth in a world, at least in the Global North, where both are becoming scarcer.
The UK sees itself as well positioned in this field, having been an early policy leader and having long-term strengths in music, publishing, television and fashion as well as heritage and associated sectors such as cultural tourism. More recently, videogames, interactive media and immersive technologies have all undergone rapid growth and are believed to have great potential.
But the creative economy has a pattern of growth and development which can be cast in a much less positive light. Despite the rhetoric of diversity and meritocracy, employment favours white middle-class male graduates over other groups, regional distribution is uneven and focused on the urban and many of the sectors – film, TV, videogames and so on - have been at the centre, not only of campaigns like #metoo and #oscarssowhite, but of accusations of long hours working culture, low levels of skills investment, exploitative practices and bullying. This question of who works in the creative industries and under what conditions affects all of us – it is these industries that help to produce our national culture and shape our self-understanding as a society.
Recent media and activist work has drawn attention to these problems and policymakers, trade unions and funders have begun to respond with a series of initiatives, reports and campaigns aimed at putting the creative economy on a more ethical and sustainable footing. Part of that process must surely be looking at questions of ownership and control in the workplace and it is to that debate that this report seeks to contribute. We want to look at the potential for co-operatives in the creative industries and what they might have to offer to those who work in them and the wider creative economy.