Anne McElvoy, Senior Editor at 'The Economist' tells Creative Entrepreneurs that "creative people are not just airy dreamers"
The term ‘Creative Entrepreneurs’ still sounds a bit like a contradiction in Britain – creators, we imagine, brood in Hoxton garrets or scrabble for public funding, while entrepreneurs make and sell things and know about accounting.
Modernity tells a rather different story. For one thing, the line between creativity and entrepreneurship has blurred, as technology lowers the barriers to entry for newcomers to the creative industries. The back bedroom and a Mac or PC have now launched as many people on roads that blend creativity and entrepreneurship – from web design to video artistry and fashion blogs and as many adventures as the imagination can conceive of. Endless in other words.
Governments have abruptly woken up to the presence of the creative industries and their importance.
Governments have abruptly woken up to the presence of the creative industries and their importance – both as feeders of ideas and products to other businesses, but as highly valuable cultural capital in keeping Britain a place that attracts the brightest and most energetic.
Yet it’s not so long ago since a government department scoped out the future of key British business sectors in a report – and didn’t mention the creative industries at all.
That is why projects like Creative Entrepreneurs are so necessary. Even if the barriers between the two fields are falling, people need to know more about what that might offer to them. A good example is the tech sector, which has quickly seeded a rise in young (and not only young) people creating startups at one of the healthiest rates in Europe. But that has been in part because, emboldened by the example of Silicon Valley, tech-sters have been comfortable with the idea of enterprise.
Creative industries need to be part of the wider economy and regarded as such.
I could not say, hand on heart that the same is true of the arts. Indeed, I have lost count of the number of plays on the London stage that equate the entrepreneur with the embodiment of malfeasance.
Many working in the arts sector know from real-life experience, that this is a skewed picture. It cannot thrive on public subsidy alone even in good times – and in bad they end up squeezed and defined by a culture of complaint. But creative industries need to be part of the wider economy and regarded as such.
Look at the success of small travelling theatre companies, starting out with just a handful of people working in small spaces: one answer to the squeeze on the number of houses making major productions themselves. There are niches and opportunities galore for those who want to combine artistic output with running their own show (literally).
But future businesses and newcomers need start-up funding, mentoring and advice from those who have trodden the path before. And like the beneficiaries of the tech boom, they need to know they are not on their own with problems or puzzles.
So, dear established artists and successful companies, do not be shy in offering help.
The best entrepreneurial cultures are a mix of business sensibility and a desire to provide something that is missing – or might simply be enjoyed or fun to try out. Creatives are not just airy dreamers: they are people who take the dream with them into the day’s work. Without that, we’d all be the poorer.
Anne McElvoy is Senior Editor at ‘The Economist’ and a regular presenter of the BBC's flagship arts programmes on BBC Radio 3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/1glPqptLCQtkgg2J6z1L9bP/anne-mcelvoy