Inquiry on Maximising the Potential of the Creative Industries

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 14 February 2013

Reference: NIA 98/11-15

ISBN: Only available online

Mandate Number: 2011/15

Executive Summary

At its meeting on 8th September 2011 the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Committee’) agreed to conduct an Inquiry into the Creative Industries. The Committee has taken an interest in this issue for some time; however, the stimulus for the Inquiry was a briefing by Assembly Research and Information Services which highlighted the current context within which the Creative Industries here operate, including recent policy developments, an analysis of government strategies and the key challenges facing the sector.

The Committee finalised the objective and terms of reference for the Inquiry at its meeting on 13th October 2011, with the key focus being maximising the potential and benefits of the Creative Industries in Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on the economic benefits. On 1st December 2011, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Department’) advised the Committee that the outcome of its Inquiry would help to shape the Department’s draft Collaborative Framework to Support the Creative Industries. During the compilation of this Inquiry report there have been further developments regarding the Creative Industries and the Committee has endeavoured to reflect these within the report.

At the core of this Inquiry the Committee asked two key questions: “Why are the Creative Industries in Northern Ireland not fulfilling their potential? What can be done to facilitate the development of and capitalisation on this potential?” The answers to these questions are at the heart of the recommendations that the Committee has made as part of this report. Answers that the Committee heard from stakeholders were not unexpected and centred on a clearer branding for the Creative Industries and greater co-ordination of the support that is available to them.

The key evidence captured in this Inquiry report identifies the potential of the creative industries in Northern Ireland, with particular emphasis on the economic benefits, and also highlights the key challenges currently facing the sector. The Committee also sought to find gaps existing in current policies, strategies and delivery mechanisms, in areas including financial support, training and skills development, accessing international markets, making the most of the programmes and funding available from the European Union. Additionally the Committee has highlighted how better networking locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, as well as better co-operation and collaboration amongst the key stakeholders, could facilitate the further development of the Creative Industries here.

The Committee also believes that Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries need to be better mapped and measured against those of neighbouring jurisdictions, with a particular emphasis on seeking lessons that can be learned from the experience of those other regions and the encouragement of continued co-operation and joint delivery, as appropriate, with them. The Committee also went to considerable lengths to seek inputs from all of the sub-sectors of the Creative Industries and Members have made constructive recommendations to support these sub-sectors. 

Throughout this Inquiry the Committee has maintained the belief that there is considerable potential for the Creative Industries to contribute not only to the economy of Northern Ireland, but also to the development of all our people, as well as our schools, our colleges and our universities. That remains the view of Members and their hope is that the recommendations made in this Inquiry will be welcomed and acted upon by all the relevant stakeholders, not least the Minister and her Department. There is much that the Committee found worthy of commendation in the Department’s approach to the Creative Industries and that of other key stakeholders, and it is Members’ intention that this Inquiry should be used to refine and improve the situation of the Creative Industries here.

In this Inquiry report the Committee has illustrated its awareness of the close economic relationship between the Creative Industries and other sectors including tourism, hospitality, museums and galleries, heritage and sport, and the social economy and community and voluntary sectors. As a result of these links the Committee has been very specific in calling for increased co-operation between Executive Departments, their arms-length bodies, agencies etc., and local government, industry, educational bodies and the community and voluntary and social economy sectors. Members have emphasised the need for a joined-up approach towards Creative Industries with the provision of a clear identity and branding, as well as an understanding that the Department must raise its profile as the policy lead for the sector.

In addition to the significant economic potential of the Creative Industries, the Committee was also made very aware of the benefits to local communities and social cohesion that the Creative Industries provide and also their contribution to improving the health of our people. These aspects of the Creative Industries are less well publicised; however, the Committee was very keen to ensure that they are recognised and Members are very grateful to the witnesses who provided evidence to the Inquiry regarding this.

This Inquiry also reflects the many challenges and barriers that the Creative Industries here face, including: issues around inadequate collaboration and co-operation on many levels and between a multitude of key players and a lack of visibility for the sector; a host of financing, education, training and support and development issues, including a lack of mentoring opportunities and appropriate funding models; the effectiveness of the Creative Industries Innovation Fund; and problems involving bureaucracy and effective management of Intellectual Property rights.

Additionally, Members explored how the Creative Industries here could better utilise the many funds and programmes offered by the European Union (EU), as well as the networking and learning opportunities that it provides. The Committee is resolute in its aim to ensure that Northern Ireland derives significant benefits from the ‘Creative Europe’ programme and ‘Horizon 2020’. The Committee expects the full support of the Minister and her Executive colleagues with respect to this aim.

With respect to the Department’s draft Collaborative Framework to Support the Creative Industries, the Committee is clear in its view that it is not a strategy, with the Department highlighting that it was not intended to be, and arguing that a strategy is not what is required at present. The Department has stressed the need for a Framework that could be responsive and adaptive to support individual sub-sectors and the sector as a whole. The Committee heard evidence during this Inquiry to support the view that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would not be appropriate for the Creative Industries here. In response, the Committee broadly welcomes the draft Framework with Members agreeing that it provides potential on which to build.

The Committee welcomes the Framework’s proposal for a Ministerial Advisory Group, which would provide a forum for industry, government and academia to engage and work together in realising the potential of the Creative Industries and also welcomes the inclusion of industry representatives in this group and the industry-led sub-sector action teams. However, the Committee noted that the draft Framework does not specify in clear terms what role was to be played in the collaborative network by delivery bodies such as the Arts Council of Northern Ireland or NI Screen. The Committee was also disappointed that the Framework made comparatively little reference to interaction with the EU or North-South and East-West collaboration

Overall the Committee supports the Framework as a first step and welcomes the Department’s intention to use this Inquiry to inform the Framework’s movement from a draft to a final version.

Ultimately the Committee believes that the effective branding of Creative Industries in Northern Ireland would be a significant step forward. This would allow for the Department to make its leadership role clear. Members also consider that such a brand could be supported by Creative Industries ‘champions’ or ‘heroes’. Members believe that this sort of approach to the Creative Industries here could allow the establishment of a single entry point to streamline support to the sector. The result could be improved collaboration across all levels and branches of government, industry and academia and the provision of a ‘onestop- shop’/portal to deliver strategy, funding, advocacy, research and policy development. The Committee is also of the view that the development of creative quarters or hubs could contribute significantly to the establishment of a Creative Industries brand and would allow the development of spatial foci for the Creative Industries across Northern Ireland, in both urban and rural areas.

The Committee views bodies such as the Ulster Orchestra as key cultural assets and believes that they provide tremendous scope to perform an ambassadorial role for the Creative Industries here. Members believe that the proper fulfilment of this role requires, in the case of the orchestra, to have access to secure core funding. However, it also requires the orchestra and similar bodies to be supported by the Executive, Assembly and local government to develop imaginative plans to attract greater corporate sponsorship.

Certain issues came to light during the course of this Inquiry that are not within the Terms of Reference. These centre on opportunities within and access to the Creative Industries for disabled and vulnerable young people and adults and those with special needs and for Creative Industries to play a role in the development of skills and jobs in rural communities.

Members have become aware that the Creative Industries employ more disabled and vulnerable people and those with special needs than are employed within the economy generally. This suggests that the Creative Industries are already more open to and attuned to the needs of these groups. The Committee believes that this existing opportunity can be further developed to allow the inclusion of more disabled and vulnerable people and people with special needs in activities within this sector. It is clear that consideration needs to be given with respect to continuing to provide these opportunities and activities beyond school age, once young people have transitioned into various forms of day care provided in a range of centres. The Committee will urge the Minister to pursue this issue with relevant Executive colleagues. 

The Committee has also come to realise that there is scope for the development of skills and employment in rural communities through the Creative Industries. Around 35% of Northern Ireland’s population live in rural areas and it is important that their needs are considered in any major policy. The nature and scale of many of creative enterprises means that they can be established within rural communities. The Committee believes that there are significant opportunities for the development of the Creative Industries within the ‘Urban/Rural Linkages’ and ‘Rural Economies’ themes within the Rural White Paper Action Plan.

Additionally, the Committee believes that there are Department for Employment & Learning (DEL) action points within the Action Plan involving the development of skills relevant to the Creative Industries within rural communities. There is also scope for the inclusion of skills relevant to the Creative Industries to be incorporated into courses offered on the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) campuses; as well as potential alignment within some of the actions coming out of the Action Plan. Members undertook to urge the Minister to explore these possibilities with the DEL and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Ministers.

This Inquiry reflects Members’ belief in a bright future for the Creative Industries in Northern Ireland and the Committee looks forward to taking forward its findings and recommendations with the Minister, her Department and all the other key stakeholders who contributed to and supported this Inquiry.

Download the full report here: Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3