Tom Watson: Speech to Creative and Cultural Skills Conference 2017

I said when I took on DCMS that I didn’t want there to be a class ceiling in the arts. I talked about supporting British talent regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or social background.

So it’s a real pleasure to be here today at an event concentrating on achieving that. 

I want to start by saying a few words about Paul Latham. Paul is the reason I’m here today. He started off as assistant manager way back when at the Oxford Apollo. In those days, cash deals ruled live music – so as a nascent industry it relied on people whose word could be trusted.

People like Paul. As he worked his way up, and as he did so he improved business practice – and the quality of venues - across the board. In short, he’s successful, he’s got a ton of common sense and an absolutely rigorous business approach.

And – thank god - he’s a socialist. He’s utterly committed to giving young people the chance to get a good job. I’m proud to call him a friend.

He's done sterling work at UK Music Skills Academy, changing the way employers hire and train young people by making sure that best practice is both available and understandable. It’s tough to change employment practices across a sector but that is exactly what he's done.

And I’m so proud of the work he and Pauline Tambling have done at Creative and Cultural Skills.

Before they got started, many people saw apprenticeships as outdated concepts, old fashioned things that weren’t ‘for’ the creative industries. Paul and Pauline completely changed that perception. They’ve broadened opportunities for young people and created thousands of new jobs.

And they’ve put their money where their mouth is - they've built the Backstage Centre centre where we are today, an industry-standard venue which offers training people at all stages of their career.

Now. as I’m sure you’re all aware, we are entering a period of unprecedented political and economic uncertainty. 

In the wake of Brexit, the creative industries are more important than ever.

Why? Because of the 84 billion pounds a year they contribute, and the 2 million jobs they provide.

And because of the cultural cloud they wield and the soft power they give us – they open doors to markets that might otherwise stay closed and make it easier for the UK to make friends and influence people on the international stage.

Yes, because of the soft power they produce – their ability to let us make friends and influence people on the international stage. 

But there’s another subtle but nonetheless important reason – because they’re also profoundly civilising. They broaden our horizons, help us understand each other and be tolerant of each others’ differences.  Right now, in the midst of the upset and division that the referendum caused, we very much need the shared experiences – the things we all watch, listen to, and read – that this sector creates.

So we absolutely need to maximise its potential.

That means tapping sources of budding talent in a way we aren’t doing at the moment.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the stats. 

There are a lower proportion of women working in the Creative Industries than in elsewhere – a third, compared to nearly half in the wider economy.

Nearly a third of creative economy jobs are based in London. Compare that to just 2.3 percent based in the North East.

And a stunning 92 percent of jobs in the Creative Industries are done by people from more advantaged socio-economic groups.

That’s not a unique missed opportunity, it’s wasted talent.

If we want a surprising, inspiring creative sector that engages us all, and appeals to people around the world, we can’t expect to support that with a lookalike workforce drawn from one narrow corner of British society.

We need to broaden access. I’m glad that Tony Hall placed such an emphasis on this in his speech to you all earlier today.

Part of that requires shining a light on exactly who is supporting diversity, and who isn’t. So it’s vital the BBC leads the way on this. Information is power, but there is an information deficit in this sector.

What we have are a piecemeal set of figures that don't look at the whole issue. And where we do have diversity data, class is often left out. 

For example, the Creative Diversity Network have a new scheme called Project Diamond - it’s a initiative across the main broadcasters measuring gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. 

I would love to add class to that list. 

And I would love to see a similar initiative monitoring diversity across all the different strands of the creative industry, with a particular focus on the ones that receive public money like arts council funding. 

Those organisations are currently supposed to collect and report diversity data, but they don't, with no repercussions. We can do better. 

And, of course, we need to broaden the pipeline of talent that is supplying this sector.

I know that most of the people in this room will have offered apprenticeships in conjunction with CCS, despite the costs and challenges of doing so.

I hope more people in the sector follow your example.

In providing apprenticeships, you are providing alternate routes into the industry, alternatives to the more usual entry level positions - unpaid internships that by their nature shut out those with talent but without the resources to work for free. 

You’re making possible the success of the apprentices we’ve heard from this morning.

And more broadly, by making it easier for all young people to break into the industry, by recruiting and nurturing new talent from diverse sources, you’re helping safeguard the future of the creative industries. 

You’re doing what you’ve always done. This sector has historically taken care of it's own – without investment or government intervention, and sometimes despite it!

You’re doing your bit.

Government needs to understand they need to do theirs.

I talked about the need to broaden the pipeline of talent. That seems obvious. And yet Government is threatening to choke part of it off entirely.

New figures reveal creative education in schools is collapsing.  

Since 2010 the number of students taking and teachers teaching art, music and drama have fallen through the floor. There are 600 fewer music teachers than there were in 2010. 1200 fewer Art and Design teachers, 1700 fewer drama teachers.

The new E.Bacc targets prioritise certain subjects deemed ‘core’. There is deep concern that this narrow focus will lead to the neglect of arts subjects in schools.  

A creative education should also be a core part of the curriculum. This government is allowing it to fall by the wayside. Britain's creative industries lead the world, but they won’t continue to be so if this continues. It’s vital that government acts to stem the tide.

Because the importance of the creative industries looks set only to increase. 

You might know that I've been doing a lot of thinking about the future of work.

I recently set up the Future Of Work Commission to examine about how new technology like robotics, big data and AI are changing what the workplace looks like, and what our jobs will involve.

About what opportunities these changes bring, and what risks we have to safeguard against.

Positive or negative, it’s clear the changes will be far-reaching.

A report from Deloitte suggests 35% of jobs contain some element that could be automated. The most conservative report I’ve seen, from McKinsey, says that at least 5% of jobs will disappear. 

Technology is having a big impact on creative sector – it’s changed the way we make music, film, visual art, and changing the way we distribute and consume it.  

TV has gone from set schedules to subscription services in under a decade.

Digital downloads revolutionised the music industry, only to give way in turn to streaming. They've challenged sales models, but also encouraged listeners to look for and listen to all sorts of music they wouldn’t have been exposed to before.

But while the creative industries are among those most affected by the new technology, they are also particularly resilient - because of the human element.

It is necessary, irreplaceable, and that the demand for it will never go away. 

It only remains to say thank you again - for listening to me today, and for everything you have done to bolster diversity and open up access to your industries. Now go have lunch!