It’s not often you hear former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and ex cabinet minister Chris Smith praised in the same sentence, but they were both commended yesterday at the launch of a new report on creative entrepreneurship (which took place at Cass Business School).
According to the report’s co-author, Barbara Gunnell, these two incongruous politicians deserve the most credit for driving forward the UK’s creative sector.
Margaret Thatcher (somewhat inadvertently) enabled the creative industries to thrive when her government introduced the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which ran for six years between 1983-9. The scheme took entrepreneurs off the dole and gave them financial support and subsidised training for a year in order to get their businesses off the ground.
Chris Smith, the UK’s first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1997-2001) was the architect of Creative Britain – a New Labour project which championed the importance of the arts, both socially and economically.
Both Thatcher and Smith leave their mark in the report, which makes 12 recommendations for improving the skills and job opportunities for young people wishing to enter the creative industries.
Key among these is a call for the next UK government to establish an Enterprise Allowance Scheme for the 21st century. This Scheme would place artists at the vanguard, and enable a new generation of creative professionals “who will lead Britain out of recession”.
The report was written by Gunnell with former New Statesman deputy editor, Martin Bright. Bright is so taken with this new idea (which came out of a New Statesman article) that he has quit his day job and is now working full-time on a new project, New Deal of The Mind, which he hopes will be a vehicle to drive the report’s recommendations forwards.
I know very little about NdotM but the report is well-argued and they have a good website incorporating vimeo, twitter and other social tools. Lobbying is hard work, especially in these testing times. I wish NdotM the best of luck!