The Creative Pulse: Interview with John Kampfner

We talk to John Kampfner about the evolution of the Creative Industries Federation, what is driving it and how it is making a difference for its members. John looks at the challenges and opportunities the sector is facing and why its fearless approach is making an impact at home and internationally.

Since the Creative Industries Federation was over three years ago, you have gained 1,000 members. What have been the key drivers for the direction of the Federation and what have been your biggest successes to date?

The direction of the Federation is guided by our three founding principles, that we are independent, authoritative, and fearless. Set up as the umbrella organisation for the UK’s creative industries we work to ensure the creative industries are central to political, economic and social decision-making.

Our greatest success is our members. Representing an industry worth £92bn, they have come together with the Federation to promote and protect the UK’s fastest growing economic sector. We span advertising to architecture, video games to publishing, from large multinationals to individual creatives, across cities, towns, and the rural economy nationwide.

And, especially with Brexit, the need and demand for the Federation is greater than we could have imagined when we set it up three years ago.


What would you say are the top two opportunities for the creative industries in the UK in the next five-ten years?

The fast-growing emerging markets in China, South Korea, India, and others, are some of the most promising global opportunities for the UK’s creative industries. As these economies grow, so too do their middle classes and the demand for creative content. And digital consumption allows our creatives to reach these new audiences faster and cheaper than ever before.

But the UK government must not use this as an excuse to ignore the challenges faced by the creative industries in the Brexit negotiations. Almost half of the UK’s creative exports – worth over £35bn – go to the EU.

We need close alignment with EU rules and regulations, and also a government-industry partnership on how to open up access to priority markets outside the EU. While full trade agreements are likely to take some years to conclude, it should be possible to start making progress through international dialogue and cooperation in the short term.

Another opportunity for the creative industries in the UK is the disruption to the job market as robots and automation come online. 87 per cent of creative jobs are resistant to automation. Our future economy will be built on creativity and technology, with big opportunities for people who combine creative, technical and social skills. From 3D printers, allowing architects to produce models in their front rooms, to virtual reality headsets allowing dancers to perform live to truly global audiences, creativity is essential to address the challenges of the future.

And looking at the other side of the coin, what are the top two challenges facing the creative industries in the UK in the next five-ten years?

The biggest challenge facing the UK’s creative industries is Brexit. Nearly 80 per cent of our members are not confident that Britain will maintain its leading global reputation post-Brexit. 21 per cent say a no-deal would make them consider moving part or all of their business abroad. 40 per cent say a “no-deal” outcome would harm their business’s ability to export.

Our members’ most immediate concern is for clarity in the Brexit negotiations, so they can plan for the future. Accessing talent from the EU, continued frictionless movement of goods for tours and exhibitions, and the protection of Intellectual Property – are all major concerns.

Our red lines on Brexit remain unchanged: any future deal with the EU must include continued membership of the single market and the customs union. The UK must retain free movement of workers, those in education and for touring, exhibitions and shows.

Another major challenge facing the country’s creative industries is the crisis of creative subjects in our schools. Last year, entries for GCSEs in creative subjects fell by 46,000 and 2016 entry rates to creative subjects at Key Stage 4 fell to its lowest in a decade. This drop-off comes just as robots and automation promise to take over many routine tasks and transform our working lives.

Yet, creative jobs are growing faster than STEM jobs, with new analysis we will be releasing in the next few months revealing there are big opportunities for people who combine creative, technical and social skills.
To meet this challenge, Ofsted should limit ‘outstanding’ to schools that warrant it: a school must teach creative subjects to be eligible for an ‘outstanding’ rating. Government should back an industry-led Creative Careers initiative, to include: a Creative Careers Campaign to showcase the richness and diversity of creative careers; a Creative Careers Toolkit for teachers and pupils; an online hub for existing guidance and materials; and, opportunities to increase the encounters between creative businesses and young people.

As you have talked about Brexit can you provide an overview of what you are doing to address this on behalf of and with the sector?

Following the Brexit result, the Federation has consulted with our members across the country, set out a series of red lines in the Brexit negotiations, and advocated on behalf of our members to influence government policy.

In particular, we have set up a series of regular policy events, where our members can directly meet and challenge government ministers. We have convened a Brexit working group which meets regularly to discuss the concerns of the sector and meets with civil servants from across government to relay these concerns. Additionally, in March 15 we held our Brexit Conference with leading figures from across the creative industries and government.

We have also launched a series of publications, including, our Global Trade report, Global Talent report, and Brexit report, which include detailed surveys, analysis, and recommendations on the most constructive forward for both the industry and government.

What is being done to support and stimulate a greater level of diversity within the creative industries sector?

We are currently working on a new piece of research to examine diversity within the creative industries sector, with a focus on fostering a more accessible and enabling support environment.

This research will build on the Federation’s previous report on diversity that put forward the case for why diversity is fundamental to creativity. Diversity allows fresh ideas to circulate, new influences to stimulate, and financially it helps to understand foreign cultures and markets to widen the creative industries’ audience.

Brexit and the possible end of freedom of movement challenges the recent successes made in diversity across the UK, and we welcome the government’s decision to double the number of exceptional talent visas, which allow us to bring in creatives from around the world.

More needs to be done, from schools to the workplace, with people given equal access to creative subjects and careers.


When considering the future growth of the creative industries, how is the CIF involved in supporting the advancement in education of creative subjects to ensure its ongoing strength?

The creative industries are facing severe skills shortages. With increasing automation, an ever-growing need for creativity in all lines of work, and easy access to new technologies, the demand for creative skills and entrepreneurs will be even higher in the future.

For the UK’s economy and its successful creative industries to innovate, grow, and maintain a global competitive edge, we need to meet existing skills shortages and prepare for future demand.

The Creative Industries Federation’s ‘Creative Careers’ initiative will launch this year to showcase the richness and diversity of creative careers, signposting young people to opportunities in this high growth sector. As the Federation’s core focus for 2018-2019, our activity will include a public advertising campaign to profile the range of creative careers, events to bring together young people and creative businesses and a new publication on diversity and inclusion.


Your membership represents a very broad spectrum of companies, organisations and individual practitioners working in every part of the sector. Can you identify particular areas which are performing best or appear to be embracing future opportunities potentially better than others?

The Federation was set up to support all members and all sectors of the creative industries, whether they are growing quickly or slowly.

In a speech made at a Federation event, Sir Nicholas Serota defined very clearly the role of international engagement in the success of the creative arts in the UK. What can and is being be done to ensure that international work can remain ‘part of the lifeblood of arts and cultural organisations’ in the UK?

One of our key messages, especially post-Brexit, is that the UK must remain open and engaged with the world. It is fundamental that partnerships we have built and established across the creative industries with audiences and markets across the world remain strong, with continued opportunities for collaboration.

At the heart of the Federation’s international work is our International Council, made of some of the leading thought and business leaders from across creative industries worldwide. It was established to bring a broader international perspective to the Federation’s work, with the aim of identifying and then sharing examples of best practice and innovation from around the world.

On October 9 2018 we will be hosting our International Summit, following on from our successful International Conference held last summer. Our International Summit is the place for thought leaders from the UK and around the world to learn about and discuss key opportunities open to the creative industries.

Looking at the national and global markets for the creative industries sector, which area of our modern lives do you think will have the biggest impact in its future progression – political, economic, social or technological developments?

Technological developments are already cutting through all areas of our lives – economic, social, cultural, and political – and upcoming technologies promise to disrupt our lives even further. For example, in architecture, 3D-modelling and 3D-printing promise to automate many daily, routine tasks. But they cannot replace the creative process. And there are opportunities as well, as digital disruption allows small businesses to reach bigger audiences, faster and more cheaply than ever before.


John launched the Creative Industries Federation in 2014. He is also Chair of the Clore Social Leadership Programme and was the founding Chair of Turner Contemporary, one of the UK’s most successful cultural institutions. He was previously a member of the Council of King’s College, London.

He is a critically acclaimed author, broadcaster and commentator who has worked for Reuters, Telegraph, FT and the BBC (international and UK). As editor of the New Statesman from 2005-2008, he took the magazine to a 30-year circulation high. In 2002, he won two Foreign Press Association awards for a two-part BBC film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has been named one of the 1,000 most influential Londoners by the London Evening Standard.