Listened to at No 10

Well – I’m not quite sure what I expected when I went to No 10 Downing Street last week – but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Quite often when I am asked to talk to government agencies it can often be an exercise in ‘consultation’ where you feel like people are ticking a box by talking to you and they’re not always that interested in what you actually have to say. I have also found the higher up the food chain I go in these agencies the worse that kind of tokenism can get.

Well not on this day.

We met with Nick Butler, Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister. He was genuinely interested, disarmingly honest and taking copious notes and asking searching questions throughout.

The meeting was set up by the British Council and so chaired by one of their trustees – Raoul Shah – who was very good but didn’t have to do much as Nick Butler had so many questions we covered the ground we had planned to but in a much more conversational format.

The conversation was under Chatham House Rules so I can’t give you a blow by blow account – but I can give you a flavour of the subjects covered and my fellow YCE‘s all agreed we could mention each other in our blogs – so here are the top three topics:

1) We talked a lot about how many of the business around the table struggled to get the right talent or employees with the right training and qualifications and the merits of work experience based learning. Davy Nougarede from Heavy Entertainment talked about the actual costs of training up new graduates once they join his company. This led to a very good conversation about how this could be supported better by government and the need for better links between education and industry despite the work of the Sector Skills Councils which (in my personal view) have not yet cracked that link for SMEs in music at least. It also gave me chance to bang on about the importance of decent music education and the excellent work of Creative Partnerships in developing a nation of creative thinkers.

2) I also threw the Digital Economy Bill on the table as requested by many people before I went to London. This opened up a very lively debate around the table! At one point Nick Butler asked whether we would be willing to be locked in a room until we found a better way forward! There were differing views around the table but all were strong opinions! We all talked about how we felt about file sharing and the idea of the government having the power to cut people’s internet access off but Clare Reddington of iShed talked eloquently about the fact that open access wifi will also be cut off which will be a huge blow to the creative companies she works with who use wifi in her space.

3) We also talked about the need for easier access to finance. There was a debate about how critical this is at Start up as well as later when a company needs to grow critically and this can be where the lack of talent or well trained people from number 1 can come in. Eva Rucki from Troika talked about the need for support at start up but also Michelle Clothier from Livity talked about the need for support as a her company grows to the next level. But in many cases banks don’t always understand the business models of creative companies and don’t see the investment as a safe one. Where as Will Critchlow of Distilled is just opening his American offices in Seattle and he talked about how much easier it is to hire and fire in the States and therefore it is easier to populate an office with talented people. Fascinating…

There was quite a bit more and we went over time – but we have since received an email from Nick Butler who wants to keep the conversation going. We have been asked to expand further on the points we all made on the day and to give him all our thoughts on the IP issues to do with the Digital Economy Bill.

We may even get another chance to visit….

So folks – they’re listening. If the Digital Economy Bill is the disaster I think it is – is there any credible alternative?

(pic for my mum!)

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5 thoughts on “Listened to at No 10

  1. Jo Ind says:

    Hi Clare. Maybe I’m being a bit thick, but I come to this post wanting to know why you were invited to Downing Street and what the meeting was for. I’ve read it carefully and followed the links but I’m still a bit perplexed about who the “we” is that you are talking about and how you came to be there in the first place. Could you enlighten me?

  2. Jo Ind says:

    Yes it does thanks. I see now that you’d put that link at the top of the page. I didn’t see that at the time, I went straight to the text and clicked on the links as I went through. Thanks though.

  3. Annie White says:

    in terms of the financing issue(s) – is there a potential gender or other diversity bias?

    i know of a case (admittedly in USA, hopefully wouldn’t happen here) where a business run by women, with a target product/service aimed predominantly at women, was almost put out of business because the bank couldn’t believe the income stream was legitimate. they froze the business bank account and refunded each transaction, killing the company’s cash flow.

    banks need to understand that business these days is so very different than old fashioned products in old fashioned industries!

  4. Mark Hill says:

    I share your reservations about the Digital Economy Bill, which should be about the role of digital technology, knowledge and creativity in the future, but instead has become protection of big businesses of the past. I don’t know what a credible alternative would be, I just know this isn’t the answer.

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