UK creativity can inspire the world

The UK's creativity is an economic success story and a therapeutic tool during difficult times, says Creative England Chief Financial Officer Mehjabeen Patrick.

Author image
Mehjabeen Patrick, Chief Financial Officer, Creative England

Simply put, creativity is the UK’s strongest asset. Before 2020 threw the world into chaos, this versatile sector – which spans film, television, performing arts, IT, video games, software, music, publishing, smart tech and everything in between – was responsible for pumping over £115.9bn gross value into our overall economyLink opens in a new window.

That mammoth figure is greater than all contributions made by the oil, gas, aerospace, automotive and life science sectors combined – with the games industry aloneLink opens in a new window responsible for adding £2.9bn.

Innovation and resilience

In 2019, it provided 12% of our service exports and employed more than 2 million people across the country – many of whom are based outside of London. Moving at a rapid pace, our creative sector helps keep us at the cutting edge of technological advancement while cementing our status as world leaders in innovation – and as the past 12 months have shown us, its resilience is second to none.

As kitchens became makeshift offices and Zoom calls the new norm, our self-starting creative sector – which had long been comfortable working unusual hours and under extraordinary circumstances – began to soar. Animation teams found themselves inundated with new workLink opens in a new window as social distancing halted face-to-face productions and made their remote working techniques both bankable and safe.

Meanwhile, the solo-working methods used by game developersLink opens in a new window helped companies across the UK find similar success – and even break user recordsLink opens in a new window. At Creative England, we witnessed this first-hand through a number of the companies we’ve supported. Lockdown helped Steve Cottam and his Netflix-for-arcade-games platform Antstream thriveLink opens in a new window while players were stuck indoors with nothing to do, and shone a much-needed light on the importance of developing engaging, AI-driven storytelling, like the type perfected by Charisma.aiLink opens in a new window.

Work ethic and determination

However, dig below the stats, figures and stories of success and you’ll find a much more relatable reason as to why creativity in the UK is so important. If there’s one thing start-ups are great at, it’s finding a way to succeed regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles standing in their way.

As many people and organisations saw their workloads slow to a crawl or evaporate completely, this tenacious work-ethic and determination to power on regardless emerged as a therapeutic benefit, adding to the overall morale of the wider sector. After all, we only need to look as far as Channel 4’s colourful lockdown hit Grayson’s Art Club to see just how calming, restorative and healing the process of idea generation and creation can be during times of unexpected stress.

On the flip side of the coin, the services and products created by SMEs went on to find unlikely new roles among their users, helping them through this difficult period. Immersive 3D-virtual world games like Link opens in a new windowAvakin Life gave players a much-needed respite from the seemingly never-ending onslaught of bleak breaking news and often heart-wrenching infection numbers.

Likewise, multiplayer party titles like Mediatonic’s pandemic megahit Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout discovered that players had started using their digital platform as a place to meet, socialise, catch up with friends and unwind after a day spent in isolation - coining the restorative term ‘ambient gaming’ in the process.

The future

As we emerge from a truly unprecedented year, it’s these factors that should remain at the forefront of people’s minds when considering the future of the UK’s creative sector. The very fact that so many within our industry have not only survived but evolved and thrived showcases the resilience, strength and promise of the boundless talent available on our doorstep.

For those looking to weather the final stages of the storm, there are a number of ongoing initiatives that can help see you through. Creative England offers schemes and opportunities for creative organisations working in different sub-sectors – from direct investment and loansLink opens in a new window to specialised supportLink opens in a new window. Likewise, the Creative Industries FederationLink opens in a new window, Creative UnitedLink opens in a new window and UK Business Angels AssociationLink opens in a new window also provide similar pockets of assistance.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that creativity remains the UK’s strongest asset – and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Regional support

Enter your postcode to find business support and case studies from businesses within your region. You'll be taken to our interactive map.