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Supporting the creative industries beyond Covid-19

4 min read

The impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on the creative industries has been enormous, with the restrictions on our galleries and exhibitions a matter of dismay right across the country. These facilities provide significant health and well-being benefits as community touch-points – benefits that we have come to appreciate all the more during Covid-19.

As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) and as a former minister for culture, we were reassured and pleased by Boris Johnson’s recognition of the importance of the sector in July last year, when he announced a very welcome Covid-19 package for cultural and heritage organisations. The third round of the Culture Recovery Fund is now open.

It is also worth highlighting that the longstanding Museum, Galleries and Exhibitions Tax Relief (MGETR) was set to expire in April 2022. This would have stopped an incredibly important support package for the sector, but thanks to the hard work of advocates in the creative industries, the government has listened and extended MGETR for a further two years, until 31st March 2024.

The economic and social contribution of the visual arts sector over the years has happened with only a fraction of the government support provided to many other sectors. Evidence from HMRC shows that in the year ending March 2021, the number of tax relief claims reached £1.31 billion across all the creative industries (including film, TV and video games), demonstrating a demand and need for this kind of government support.

Growing the sector out of Covid-19 and beyond needs continued strategic input and leadership by the government

The creative industries are a high growth sector – in 2017/18 alone they grew by 7.4 per cent in real terms, more than five times the growth rate of the UK economy as a whole. They are a significant employer, with over 2 million people working in the industry in the year prior to the pandemic.

As we recover from the impacts of Covid-19, and turn from “jabs, jabs, jabs” to “jobs, jobs, jobs”, we need more than ever to draw on our talent and flair for innovation. Cultural innovation has made the UK one of the most influential cultural markets, and has been an important driver of regeneration – or levelling-up – in many parts of the country, from Gateshead to Margate.

The cut to arts higher education funding is concerning. Arts education creates a pipeline of talent to a sector that makes an enormous social and economic contribution to the country. As the Office for Students itself has recognised, graduates from music, dance, drama and performing arts, art and design “play an important role in supporting important parts of the UK employment sectors, economy and cultural life”.

In June this year, Kingston University launched the Future Skills league table, a report which outlined the top 10 skills businesses require to tackle future challenges. Unsurprisingly in our view, 56 per cent of employers named creativity as a key skill. The APDIG also shared a policy briefing where leaders in creative industry sectors illustrated the important role the sector can play in achieving our national target of net zero by 2050.

Growing the sector out of Covid-19 and beyond needs continued strategic input and leadership by the government. A recent report by the All-Party Group published by Policy Connect made number of recommendations that would allow a growth strategy to be implemented with minimum taxpayer support, ensuring it is targeted on those social and economic objectives where investment can make the most impact. One recommendation was to establish a baseline of the economic contribution from the visual arts, which would allow the Creative Industries Council to set an annual growth strategy against the baseline.

As we look towards building a more sustainable net zero society, the creative industries must be allowed to support this goal through key investment and commitments from government.

The APDIG hopes to bring these issues to the forefront for policymakers, as we launch a new series of roundtables with the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD), Realising Art and Design Research in Policy Making Decisions.

The first roundtable took place in November 2021 and the second will be held on 9th December. We are looking forward to seeing colleagues from across the houses join us to debate these issues and ensure the future creative workforce is given the attention it deserves.


Lord Vaizey is a Conservative peer. Barry Sheerman is the Labour MP for Huddersfield and chair of the APPG on Design and Innovation.

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