The Creative Industries Federation launched in 2013 as a UK-wide membership organisation for professionals in the creative industries. It seeks to be, as its chief executive John Kampfner says, “the glue” for making cross-disciplinary connections.

For its first event in Scotland last week at the newly refurbished Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the organisation hosted a panel of leading representatives from the country’s cultural sector: Brian McLaren (managing director, Ekos Economic and Social Development), Jill Miller (director, Cultural Services at Glasgow Life), Tom Innes (director, Glasgow School of Art), Janet Archer (chief executive at Creative Scotland), Dr Krishna Thiagarajan (chief executive, Royal Scottish National Orchestra) and Janice Kirkpatrick (designer, founding director of Graven).

Fiona Hyslop, Scottish cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs, was also there to deliver the keynote speech.

Kampfner began by asking the panel, and in turn the audience: “Why is it that the fastest-growing sector still struggles to have its voice heard?” Despite oozing with the impetus to share, network, expand and reaffirm value, everyone in the room was struck with confusion over any clear answer. Should we be increasingly thinking about Scotland’s culture on an international level? Is it about re-establishing what value is? Is it about performing miracles?

In her speech, Hyslop had a lot to say about Scotland’s role as a leading “cultural cradle” that contributes on an international stage. She stated that Scotland’s creative industries employs more than the oil and gas industry. The sector’s investment in research and development is surely a key factor in this. But the statement also sparked discussion around how such statistics are collected in order to measure performance and define value.

As described by Archer (pictured above), Creative Scotland is working on methods of gathering and processing data that reflect how “Scotland presents a different picture of its creative industry” than the rest of the UK. This picture looks beyond economic growth as a way of making the case.

According to the panel, 89% of people in Scotland think public spending on the arts is a good thing, in a culture where value is thought about on a human, just as much as economic, plane. Glasgow Life is responding to this attitude with a current mission to, as Miller says “restate what they are about” by thinking “grassroots rather than top down” in an environment where culture has always been important.

Thinking international

With such varied perspectives, what is CIF’s answer to establishing strong partnerships north of the border? Well, they’re thinking international, and so is Scotland, but this does not come without its problems.

One of Janice Kirkpatrick’s highly-qualified employees at Graven was born and educated outside of the EU. The company had to fight hard to keep her in the country. The tightening of immigration laws is having a knock-on effect for the creative industries, just as much as any other sector. It may be the fastest growing, and have more employees than oil and gas, but it’s also leaking specialists and well-educated graduates.

CIF is conscious of the importance, as well as problems, of an internationalised industry. Kampfner went on to say: “It’s about encouraging and building an idea of scale. You don’t have to be in the capital city to have scale and internationalise.”

Scotland has good reason to boost its international outlook; with its distance from London, it has a chance to broaden global relationships. CIF might have a role in this but so do Scotland’s key well-established art schools.

GSA and its director Tom Innes are tuned into their international role. “We are aware of the impact of international students and want to ensure they can still contribute,” he said. But they are also conscious of how Glasgow in particular has become a place for cultural consumption, and less about cultural production. And with more students crossing waters to study here only to return home again, how is this “production” sustained?

What about the miracle?

The ‘Glasgow Miracle’ – a term coined in 1996 by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist to describe the city’s international contemporary art scene – remains a hot topic. Some pointers were given on how it came about, such as through hard work and having the right tutors teaching the right students. Miller even stated “it was all planned”, but went on to comment that “the magic happened by leaving it alone as an eco-system”.

Indeed the eco-system was not fed and watered by keeping everything local; they had an international focus then just as we do now. But this is proving to be the sharpening stone for a double-edged sword. More international students means more global relationships as graduate artists continue to work with peers, but it also means fewer resources for home-grown talent to blossom.

GSA is capped on how many Scottish students it can take in each year as its international remit expands. But the diverse contribution these students can make is quickly stemmed by visa restrictions. “It is difficult to build a thriving environment and establish international connections too,” said Innes. “We would like to diversify, retain more cultural talent from within Scotland. But it is just as important for us to expose our Scottish graduates to the rest of the world.”

How can there be another miracle in this restrictive climate? How can eco-systems be left alone without constant analysis and value judgements made on economic impact? Again, perhaps it is about scale and, as they establish partnerships across the UK, CIF should build a valuable knowledge base for how graduates, grassroots organisations, diverse micro-businesses and larger creative bodies can tip the balance in their direction.

The Creative Industries Federation’s Glasgow event took place on 10 November 2015. Today (18 November) sees the launch of the Federation’s new guide, Creative industries – routes to finance

Photos: McAteer Photography Ltd

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