Andrew Knutt AIBA FRSA, director, Creative Innovation Centre CIC, Taunton talks about the value of arts and culture

Somerset and indeed the UK is defined by its arts and culture sector: Our cultural organisations, artists, and proud history of creative expression and heritage are a crucial part of our identity, vitality, and economic growth.

Official statistics published in January 2014 revealed that the UK’s creative industries, which includes the film, art, television and music industries, are now worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy – generating over £8.8 million pounds an hour. It’s also the largest growing and export sector in the UK and employs 5.6% of all UK jobs. For every £1 of salary paid by the arts and culture industry, an additional £2.01 is generated in the wider economy through indirect and induced multiplier impacts.

That said culture and the creative industries is more than just about economic development, and when we talk about the value of arts and culture we understand how it illuminates our inner lives and enriches our emotional world. This is what we cherish. From the very young to the old, the impact arts and culture has on our social wellbeing and cohesion, our physical and mental health, our education system, our communities and our national status and our economy are all part of its value.

Yet, I am still amazed to see that government shouts out about how great the sector is but fails to put its money where its mouth is. Yes, organisations like the Arts Council will fund certain projects; especially if there is local support from local government; yet our local council’s (such as Somerset County Council who have a budget of £329.5m) only provide 0.015 % of this budget for creative and culture industries. What is even sadder is that the Arts Council have the attitude of ‘why should we invest in Somerset if it doesn’t invest in itself’. This makes obvious sense but the outcome results in a creative and cultural sector unable to expand and grow, or provide the economic development and social regeneration our county and its residents so deserve.

Local authorities can benefit from investment in creative industries because of their potential to impact on a wide range of policy priorities.

Creative industries not only have the potential to generate jobs, innovation and productivity, but also to enhance the quality of life in an area and stimulate new ideas and thinking within communities.

So next time you think about or vote for someone to help create a great a place to live, work and play always remember that creativity and culture is permanently at the heart of it. Whether, theatre, dance, music, heritage, festival, art, innovation, film, TV, business, education and all others things that make up our lives and places, without support from government and investment we cannot truthfully provide a happy future for our children and ourselves in our old age.