Minister for Digital and Culture Creative Industries speech

Matt Hancock addresses the UK's creative industries

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

Watch Matt Hancock’s speech on the DCMS YouTube channel

This summer in Rio, Team GB had the whole world talking when we beat most of them to second place in the Olympics.

Our sports men and women proved that, when talent is supported, this small group of islands can make an outsized contribution on the world stage.

It’s a point you in our creative industries make year in, year out.

Let’s consider the evidence.

BBC Worldwide is the biggest non-American distributor of TV.

We are the second biggest exporter of music. The whole world sings along to Coldplay, Stormzy and Adele, though it’s probably best I don’t prove the point right now.

Our film studios at Pinewood and Leavesden have lately been home to some of the planet’s biggest franchises; not just to British heroes like Harry Potter and James Bond but Jason Bourne and Han Solo.

And as new forms of entertainment come along, we excel at those too.

What’s the best-selling entertainment product of all time?

It’s Grand Theft Auto V, which took a billion dollars in just 3 days – and it was made right here in Britain, in Edinburgh.

So when people say the problem with our economy is that we don’t make things any more, let’s get out there and tell them this.

We make immersive stories, uplifting music, iconic characters, and beautiful designs.

We produce, on an industrial scale, all the things that enrich life and make it worth living.

As Picasso said “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our shoulders.”

And while the product is often fun, even frivolous, it’s serious business.

The creative industries consistently outperform the rest of the economy.

I want to pay tribute to my brilliant predecessor, Ed Vaizey, for the work he did to help make this happen.

And creative industries will be absolutely central to our post-Brexit future.

Economically, because where artistic design intersects with digital capability is the nexus at the heart of the future economy.

This nexus of art and technology is how Britain will pay her way in the 21st Century.

But not just economically. Perhaps more importantly culturally.

As my friend and colleague Karen Bradley, our new DCMS Secretary of State, has said, art and the culture that underpins it has intrinsic value too.

Our creative industries are, and always have been, central to how we are seen and how we see ourselves as a nation.

We must define Brexit Britain as open and optimistic, gregarious and global.

Progressive and positively engaged in the world, as Britain is when we are at our best.

The creative industries are critical to securing that status.

Our cultural capital has long served as our global calling card, delivered by James Bond in his Aston Martin, Doctor Who in his TARDIS, or as a simple Hello from Adele.

This matters more than ever, not just because of Brexit, but because of the transformation technology has unleashed over a generation.

As routine work – the filing, the sifting, the sorting – is increasingly handed over to robots and AI, our human skills, our creative skills.

Empathy, intuition, aesthetic and moral judgment.

These are things which can’t be taught to a machine.

Even the most sophisticated CGI relies on human creativity.

The tech revolution is happening.

No King Canute can stop it.

But we can, and must harness it, so yes we support the disruptors, but also support those disrupted by change, to change.

By growing the stock of jobs that rely on those skills, we can humanise jobs while we automate work.

And the point is this: that this sector, which is so central to who we are as a country - which can trace its lineage back to the Southwark playhouses of the sixteenth century, and beyond - is also central to our future prosperity as a nation.

This country benefits so much from your work.

From Manchester to Margate, Dundee to Dalston, start-ups and entrepreneurs come to cluster around the creative institutions that make up a city’s cultural quarter.

The lesson is clear: make an area interesting and you attract interesting people to work there.

The hipster is a capitalist.

Cultural rebirth, connectivity, and economic revival go hand in hand.

So, the question I want to address today is how do we in government help you deliver on that promise?

We can’t do it top-down, with a prescriptive approach.

Kennedy once said that “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

This surely is true.

It’s been at the heart of the Arts Council’s approach over the past seventy years.

It’s an approach I strongly support.

Before entering politics I worked in tech.

Just as in high art, so in the creative art of technology you can’t prescribe these things from the top.

If the Government had tried to reinvent the Internet as some kind of “Open Knowledge Library” instead of leaving it to Jimmy Wales and his amazing team at Wikipedia, it would have taken years, probably billions over budget, and would undoubtedly be more ugly and clunky than the organically developed version we all love.

No, we can’t prescribe creativity from above.

But similarly creativity isn’t automatic or exogenous. Creativity doesn’t flow down like manna from heaven.

It is in our gift to create the conditions for creativity to thrive: the spaces, the skills, the connections, the leadership and the public financial support to make that chaotic, invigorating magic ecosystem grow.

We can and must strive to create the circumstances in which the essential humanity of every person can find expression, no matter how flawed each and every one of us are.

This is a mark of a civilised society.

Today I want to set out three broad principles based on the many conversations I’ve had so far, that will inform my approach to this job: Principles of backing success, access and synthesis.

Let me take each in turn.

The first principle is backing success.

As I hope you can tell, we are passionately committed to the success of our creative industries, not only because of the jobs you create, but lives you enrich, the horizons you broaden, the worlds you unlock for millions.

Across music and theatre and tech and the arts, with fashion week – which I adore – next week.

From coding to craft, from publishing to production.

Advertising, architecture, TV, film, radio, photography, design, dance, drawing, games, museums and our world beating galleries.

Their full value cannot be always quantified by the Office for National Statistics but we value them for what they are.

And we have shown, time and again, we are prepared to invest.

In practical terms, what this means is: I will fight to ensure that the creative and digital industries are at the heart of this Government’s industrial strategy, with a tax, regulatory and public investment framework that supports you to grow.

And whatever ideas, whatever your fears, my door will be always open and we will ensure that you are heard at the highest levels of government.

I know the huge importance industry places on the creative sector tax reliefs, and I want to assure you that they will not be adversely affected by Brexit.

And I know the Chancellor shares his predecessor’s enthusiasm for the sector.

Looking at the figures, it is clear the tax reliefs have been a great success.

Since the film tax relief was introduced 1,800 films have been supported, accounting for over £8 billion of UK value.

And since then we have introduced new reliefs for video games, animation, children’s television, theatres and just this week passed the legislation for the orchestra tax reliefs, to encourage business and support British creativity.

In 2013 we introduced the high-end television tax relief to capitalise on the nascent boom in high quality television dramas.

145 programmes have since been supported.

And we have provided some £45 million in video games tax relief since it was introduced in 2014, supporting over £400 million games production spend in the UK.

We have committed £60 million a year to the pioneering GREAT campaign, which works with 21 Government Departments and over 140 British Embassies and High Commissions, to support and promote your businesses abroad and attract world-class events to the UK.

Yes, there will be challenges to overcome but we are committed to ensuring that as we prepare to leave the European Union we do so in a way that protects the British economy and ensures Britain remains an attractive destination for investment.

And still more can be done.

I can today tell you that we have just launched a consultation on the next tax relief for museum and gallery exhibitions, and we want to hear your ideas and views on its design.

And I look forward very much to working with the Creative Industries Federation and Creative Industries Council, and listening to the views you represent, not least the work you’ve done on the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.

Working together we will build on success: the success of the creative industries and the tax credits that underpin them.

That’s my first principle, backing your success to the hilt.

My second principle is access.

We want to build an economy that works for everyone not just the privileged few.

Your sector is potentially one of the greatest forces for openness and social mobility we have.

Talent knows no boundaries.

It was found in four lads from Liverpool who just wanted to make music, in a girl from Margate who wanted to share her art, in kids from homes up and down the country with a flair for acting, writing, gaming.


Talent is not restricted to the privileged and the comfortable.

And as talent is so even-handed, so should its gatekeepers be.

No one should be excluded from any of your industries because of their accent, their gender, or their postcode.

As the Prime Minister said on the steps of Downing Street: it’s part of building a country that works for all, not just the privileged few.

Just as culture transcends boundaries and speaks to the common humanity in us all so creativity allows us to transcend the circumstances of our lives.

So let us drive open diversity. In recent years we’ve learnt many important lessons about how to improve diversity in elite institutions, from mentoring to name-blind recruitment and targeted campaigns.

We are ready to help you apply them in your own industries.

And I make no apology for holding you to a higher standard than the rest of the private sector.

You have a special responsibility to be a force for openness and social mobility in Britain.

There’s already some great work being done.

As a backbencher I worked with Suzanne Bull and her team at Attitude is Everything to improve access for disabled people to music venues, and I want to see that agenda go further.

As Skills Minister I funded Creative Access, and I want to see that agenda go further.

Once of my first acts in this job was to launch Project Diamond, and I want that to go further.

I think you get the message: the access agenda needs to go further.

And access means more than just access to creative industry jobs.

We also need to improve geographical access to arts, culture and creativity.

It’s about diversity in all its forms: it’s about social mobility as well as gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual identity.

It’s about education too and encouraging and supporting children and young people to engage with and have access to arts and culture from an early age both inside and outside of school to support the next generation of the creative industries.

Since 2012, we have invested over £460 million in a range of music and cultural education programmes including the creation of the National Youth Dance Company and the BFI Film Academy.

Pilots for our Cultural Citizens scheme which will connect disadvantaged children with arts organisations in their local community will start this month in three areas of England where cultural participation is low.

I’m working with my colleagues at the Department for Education to support creative subjects in schools.

As well as social mobility we want to drive geographic diversity, and see London’s success matched in every part of our land.

This matters to me personally too.

Coming from Chester, support for provincial theatres like the Gateway, and for regional brilliance in Liverpool and Manchester are important to me.

And just as important, when I came to London as an enthusiastic but unconnected twenty year old, it was places like the National Portrait Gallery, the Wallace, the ENO, and then the Tate Modern that welcomed me in.

We need to pull off the trick off supporting world-beating excellence, and spreading that excellence to all parts.

If there’s anyone who knows how to make the spreading of excellence build on not dilute that excellence, it is Sir Nick Serota.

So I’m absolutely delighted he is stepping up from the amazing work he’s done at the Tate to pursue this agenda at the Arts Council.

We want to blast British culture out of its heartlands of WC1 to every part of our islands.

I have asked Neil Mendoza to lead a full review of our museums.

It will cover how best to support museums large and small, widening participation, supporting both digital innovation and learning.

We need to learn from the best, from the heights of the British Museum’s glorious Pompeii exhibition a couple of years back, to the innovation of thriving small museums like in Wrexham.

It will give a frank assessment of the challenges, and propose ways to overcome them.

The only thing not up for review is free entry to the permanent collections of national museums.

I want all to engage in how we support our amazing museums.

Next year will see the City of Culture in Hull – a place I know well from my youth – and I’m incredibly excited to support Hull in delivering on its excellent promise – though I’m not sure I’m ready to get naked and paint myself blue just yet.

This will be a great chance to showcase the transformative power of our creative industries.

You need only look at Liverpool’s renaissance since its year as City of Culture.

Then, the following year will see the first Great Exhibition of the North, a two-month display of culture, creativity and design, in one of England’s great northern cities.

We have four brilliant bids - Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle/ Gateshead, and Sheffield.

We want to show directly elected city mayors how they can use you to boost their local economies while defining a regional identity.

So those are my first two principles: backing success and improving access.

My third is synthesis, of culture with digital technology.

Like the creative industries, the digital economy is something we as a country are disproportionately good at.

London is home to the biggest and fastest growing tech cluster in Europe and similar hubs are growing all over the country.

We do more e-commerce per head than any other nation.

And on the digital transformation of government, we are the source code.

Other countries copy our methods.

But there is more that we can do to build on the symbiotic relationship between technology and culture.

There is a reason we have a Minister for Digital and Culture.

Apple became a global behemoth, not because it invented much of the tech in an iPhone but because it combined that with of Sir Johnny Ive’s iconic design work.

Of course it functions amazingly well but, let’s face it, the clincher is it looks so cool.

Increasingly we’re able to meld time-honoured craft with cutting edge technology.

The live streaming of plays now brings West End shows to audiences nationwide - this very weekend, for the first time ever, Shakespeare’s Globe will livestream a production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream - while London Fashion Week streams to over 200 countries.

The soon-to-open hip-hop musical Hamilton will use Uber-style dynamic pricing, so ticket prices respond in real-time to consumer demand.

And many of our most important museums are now digitising their collections, so they can be accessed by scholars around the world.

We want to bring the two worlds even closer. Our aim is to have not only the best content in the world, but also the best digital platforms on which to display it.

This is our sweet spot for the twenty-first century.

And I want to say this about creators, platforms and the corporates who work with them.

You know just how critical, and how disruptive this nexus of culture and technology can be.

Enforcement and fair treatment of rights owners is critical to healthy creative industries.

You can’t grow the digital market if you don’t support content.

And ultimately, content and distribution grow together.

Yes there’s a debate and negotiation about shares. But our task is to grow together.

The Digital Economy Bill, which I will take through parliament this autumn drives that forward.

This synthesis also means treating fast, reliable connectivity, broadband and mobile, as the fourth utility, as essential to modern life as access to water or electricity.

It means both digital and artistic skills getting the attention they deserve in education.

And it means a culture that is deeply supportive of enterprise, of creativity, of innovation.

Where if anyone around the world wants to test an innovation – to try their cutting edge health practices on patients or literally roadtest a driverless car, they look to the UK first.

We are living through a period of profound innovation and the digital revolution has brought huge challenges.

But it also brings exciting opportunities.

By their nature many modern advances, both digital and artistic, aren’t measured in GDP.

What price the sight of a beautiful building, or of a family connecting over Skype, even of the health benefits from running around playing Pokemon Go?

Measurable or not, I passionately believe that human lives the world over are enhanced through your creativity.

It is incumbent on us to use that creativity to benefit all, not just the privileged few, to spread the advantages widely, and ensure all are supported in this time of great change.

These are the principles that will guide my approach to the creative industries: success, access, synthesis.

To maintain UK culture’s immense, powerful, vital, growing, essential and defining role in our economy.

To capture the nexus of creative technology that is the sweetspot for our future prosperity.

And to make sure the benefits are felt by and the opportunities are open to everyone from every community from all parts of this land.

I can’t wait and I look forward to working with you all to make that happen.

Published 9 September 2016