All Quiet on the Eastern Front
Generator – Platform for the Development of Cultural and Creative Industries.
In their song, Sweden, the old synthpunk band The Stranglers used the expression “All Quiet on the Eastern Front”. Although one may query their clichéd impression of Sweden - especially if one is aware of the fact that three of the four band members spent time in prison - there may be something to it.
Perhaps one should also query the judgement of those who, much, much later, refer to The Stranglers and use their perception of Sweden as a pretext for an expose of Sweden’s creative economy. Be that as it may, the time has come to speak up about what has been achieved within this field in Sweden over the last ten to twelve years. We need to do this for our own sake and for the sake of others. We need new friends, kindred spirits and collaborators in order to advance.
In the last ten years Swedish cultural and creative industries have undergone a transformation. If that sounds like a short time, consider the arrival – and the departure – of the Sony Walkman the telex and the fax. It is still possible to listen to the sound of a fax machine if you dial any Swedish public body; that rustling and whistling in the receiver. One could call that a cultural heritage – or the sound of technology moving on. It is easy to conceive of the cataclysmic change in technology in recent time if one considers the moment one’s friends suddenly got access to universally connectable, mobile laptops and smart phones. If you only need to reverse two years you know your friends are high-tech. Others are still lagging behind.
Inspired originally by groundwork carried out in the UK, the notion of the creative industries has now been established in all levels of Swedish society. Those working within the interface between creativity, culture, economy and technology have been intensely engaged with cultural and creative industries in various ways and under different headings. The concept has subsequently been influenced by the Swedish model and particularly tailored to include aspects of participation and a perspective from the bottom up, although there is still an on-going discussion about the notion and what it entails.
Having been established we can now be confident that there is a general awareness amongst individual cultural and creative entrepreneurs, larger companies and within the public sector about what the cultural and creative industries are. What is more, there has been a longstanding exploration of meeting places, incubators and other means for society to promote the development of the industries. As of yet, there are no national statistics relating to the sector but there is well-mapped information from regions, municipalities and projects. Knowledge-and-competence development and research have also advanced during this period. This is where we return to The Stranglers – a band that would constitute, in themselves, a sort of creative industry today - and whose members would not have to ‘cut their hair and get a job’ as, opposed to thirty years ago, the making of music is now considered a ‘proper job’. Tony Blair, coined the term ‘creative industries’ and set up the Creative Industries Task Force in 1998, ensuring that the economic contribution made by the creative sector has to be recognised. It is now our job in Sweden to continue to build on that initiative, and the work that has been carried out here in the past ten years, and to present the current status of the sector as plainly and honestly as possible in order to sum up and move on. To achieve this, national as well as international input is needed. We have been silent long enough, it is time to present a dynamic and transparent manifesto for the future.
This will be presented, loud and clear, at the Generator Conference 15-16 November 2011 in Norrköping. Learn more about the conference programme.
photo: Hans Eklundh