Is it possible to do good within the creative industries? That’s the question posed by Hesmondalgh and Baker (2011) in their treatise on creative labour, its meaning and practical implications.
Yet it would seem from reading some definitions of creative entrepreneurship that doing good – or at least having an ambition to ‘do good’ – is a given.
Positive words abound in descriptions of creative entrepreneurship. Creative businesses will typically feature work that is stimulating, flexible, involves meeting interesting people and on-going learning and development, often from fellow creatives.
These businesses will often be imbued with a value system that prioritises aesthetics and social, spiritual, historic and symbolic authenticity, according to The Work Foundation (2007) Staying Ahead: The economic performance of the UK’s creative industries.
Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, adopted a policy of encouraging investment in creative industries to achieve his ambition of seeing the UK as “the design shop of the world.” (Blair, 1997, as cited by Hesmondhalgh and Baker, 2011).
On the flipside, creative entrepreneurs frequently run businesses that are precarious and that struggle to be sustainable.
To create is another word for to produce – yet it is a word imbued with more positive, less mundane meanings including “newness, invention, innovation, starting afresh.” (Hesmondalgh and Baker, 2011)
This is seen as at odds with traditional business values which value money and profit as the primary focus and are arguably less philanthropic.
Cultural entrepreneurship could even be seen as ‘a way of life’, and of doing work that is embedded into your identity and outlook. (Naudin, 2007)
As a result, cultural entrepreneurs may seek to embed their ways of thinking into their work and their outputs, rather than have those values as a peripheral element.
Characteristics of a cultural entrepreneur include these: individualistic, collaborative, not necessarily motivated by money, little investment, learn as they go, take on ‘projects’, manage small risks, importance of networks or clusters, often involved in both production and distribution (Bilton, 2007)
These definitions, taken together, serve to create a “type of work” and “type of worker”, defined as one who is geared towards long unsocial hours, often insecure, often lacking discipline (Ross, 2000).
This can in turn result in exploitation – a willingness to work for free or very low wages, for example; and a failure to protect unique work, including words and images. (Hesmondalgh and Baker, 2011)
In Worcester a group of cultural entrepreneurs have joined forces to create a collaborative workspace and concept in the heart of the city.
Their project – called the Kiln – is close to fruition, with work on upgrading an unused building in the city due to start this summer.
It brings together a loosely connected group of creatives, including a photographer, designer, social media expert, and IT consultant, who want to work independently but within a shared environment.
They see this as a way to spark fresh ideas, share expertise and knowledge and be among “like minded people” – by which they mean “people who share similar values.”
Their ambition, values and mission statement exemplify the idea of creative entrepreneurs joining forces to take a risk and get it right – as discussed by Joanna Taft, in her TEDx talk “Cultural Entrepreneur – Taking a Risk and Getting it Right”.
In it, she talks about creatives who “share a drive to create” adding “we make a lot of mistakes but we persevere.”
The question is whether it is possible to achieve those ideals and be a philanthropic entrepreneur while simultaneously creating a viable, sustainable business that has the potential for growth.
Over the next two months that is precisely the question I will seek to answer.
Hesmondhalgh, D. & Baker, S. (2011) Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries, Routledge.
Parrish, D. Creative Industries. Available at http://www.davidparrish.com/creative-industries/ Accessed May 5, 2018
The Work Foundation (2007). Staying Ahead: The economic performance of the UK’s creative industries
Bilton, C. (2007) Mangement and Creativity, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.