THE CRISIS IN THE ARTS
The global Creative and Cultural industry was worth about US$ 1.3 trillion annually in 2005 with projected annual growth of over 7% according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasted the growth at 10% annually. In 2003 Creative Industries were estimated to account for more than 7% of the world’s gross domestic product according to the World Bank. In the developed world- and increasingly in the developing world- Creative Industries are ‘the’ growth industry- even in recession- outstripping traditional industries like manufacturing. Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden are using it to leverage their shift into information-based economies. According to the Financial Times, “a report from the (UK) Government’s Strategy Unit has concluded that the Creative Industries in London are now more important than financial services to the economy!” These astounding figures are achieved by creative businesses, most of which are small or medium sized enterprises!This growth of the creative industries is contradicted by one country- Trinidad and Tobago.
In the last decade T&T’s cultural sector collapsed almost completely- this during a $300 billion boom. Nearly every creative sector in T&T experienced brain drain and decline- in audience, brand cache, earnings, skill-level, and retention of indigenous modes… Theatre, dance, visual arts, music, festivals, etc… The variety and quality of offerings in each sector declined with an emergence of a handful of profitable players- not necessarily based on merit… Dozens of theatre companies and forms of theatre disappeared, festivals like Paramin which needed graceful re-engineering collapsed, dozens of traditions disappeared with the last dying breath of Elders, and major institutional spaces like Amar Studios and CCA 7 (a global visual-arts gallery based here) were allowed to collapse. Meanwhile, globally, Trinidad lost proprietary of nearly every single of the 300 carnivals we originated- because of our failure to engineer our carnival and NCC properly…
How is this apocalypse possible when every year we see a Ministry of Culture spending over $300 million? How, when we have produced Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Nobel, Bollywood Oscar, BET, and Commonwealth Book prize winners?! How, when we know we are producing a constant stream of genius? How? Because since Independence the progressive agenda of the Arts- championed by stakeholders- has been studiously ignored by successive administrations. These ignored agendas correspond to agendas implemented 40 years ago by all the countries currently experiencing creative Renaissances.
In T&T the Creative Industry is worth about $1.9 billion TT to the economy. If we remove carnival- it is substantially reduced. This is a false picture of the sector’s potential. The Artists Coalition- along with over 20 stakeholder groups- along with the Expert Panel for the Creative and Cultural Sector handed this administration blueprints of how to grow this sector to a $6 billion net foreign exchange earner in only 3-4 years. To do this government needs to remove the shackles that have artificially kept the sector back and create the common-sense enabling mechanisms that most other countries have…
We anticipate our Heritage Industry could earn $1billion annually- but not with TDC’s current conception of Heritage Sites… We have identified 365 Sites which can be designed into major global income earning sites properly re-engineered. These include sites like Lion House in Chaguanas as an international VS Naipaul multi-media Museum, CLR James’ House, Sir Learie Constantine’s House etc. At the moment this sector earns next to nothing.
Carnival and our Festivals can earn up to $2.5 billion for the economy- if we were to gracefully upgrade them whilst understanding their sacred DNA. But the quickest way of increasing income is by facilitating our genius talents. To those who don’t believe we have any- I don’t blame you. The evidence is hidden from your eyes by a local media completely deficient in doing their job. If you want to hear some- check out ‘Indigenous’ on 91.1FM on Thursdays between 8-10pm. The fact is this: the top 5% of our creative class can earn over $2 billion annually- if we implement the interventions. These people currently earn $100 million. How am I so sure they’re billion dollar earners? The answer is in understanding the global creative marketplace- and of course- evidence.
Exhibit A: Every international gain T&T music has made in the last 17 years has been done through only 4 visits to an international music expo called MIDEM. These trips earned over $125 million worth of deals- and cost only $500,000. Government funded this activity only twice. Why haven’t we sponsored national merit-based contingents annually- like everybody else? Every artistic sector has similar Olympics we can medal in, that can emancipate our best product and talents. The artists that benefited from MIDEM were people like Soca Daddy, Fireball, and KMC- for songs that no DJ or press person in Trinidad gave the time of day. Those of us who know, knew better. There’re currently 60 musicians who can each earn over $50 million a year- but it aint who you expect. Transformations like this are being held back by non-implementation.
I will speak about Machel and our music ‘industry’ next.