OPINION: Create, debate and stimulate

BIG SCREEN: Films such as Young Einstein (1988), made in Newcastle and featuring Novocastrians, are part of the creative industries at work.

BIG SCREEN: Films such as Young Einstein (1988), made in Newcastle and featuring Novocastrians, are part of the creative industries at work.

WE are all witnessing the digital winds of global change. When media and communication intersected with IT and the design sectors worldwide, the creative industries took advantage of the growing use of personal computers and expanding bandwidth to deliver more and more digitised content to us.

 They delivered more films, more music, more books, more games, and more and more information of all sorts now coming at us through blogs, websites and mobile apps. 

Some traditional players and newer industries have taken advantage of these massive changes. Many of them depend on copyright to capitalise on the opportunities the digital world has presented to them. Many are now part of the creative industries. But what exactly are these industries?

What is common to them is the use of creativity as a primary driver. By creativity we usually mean artistic activity. Writing, visual images, sound and music are all at the heart of the creative industries. So, which industries are commonly included? 

A recent report to the NSW Department of State and Regional Development breaks down the creative industry into the following sectors: advertising, architecture, design, visual arts, music, performing arts, publishing, film, television, radio, electronic games.

 Others such as John Howkins, who wrote the best-selling book The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from  Ideas, list similar sectors such as advertising, architecture, design, art, craft, fashion, performing arts, publishing, music, performing arts, film, TV and radio, software and video games. No matter which list is used, and there are many, the broad sectors of design, information technology, the media and the arts are always included. 

In Australia in 2011 these industries contributed $93.2billion to the Australian economy or 6.6per cent of gross domestic product. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report,  employment in them now makes up 8per cent of the Australian workforce. As the Australia Institute reports, this is larger than employment numbers in the mining workforce. And that makes them significant contributors.

This situation has been recognised by policy makers around the world. In NSW the current government has established a Creative Industries Taskforce. This taskforce is chaired by Dan Rosen, chief executive of the Australian Recording Industry Association, who brings a wealth of experience  that ranges across digital media, law, policy, and music.

 The taskforce’s first report indicates that Sydney has a high concentration of these creative industries, as you would expect. What about Newcastle and the Hunter? 

Here in the Newcastle local government area there are many examples. They range from architectural firms such as DWP Suters, who work across the Asia Pacific, advertising and design houses such as Headjam or OOTS, who put together the recent Feel Inspired promotional clip, through to those who write this newspaper you are reading right now. 

NBN is part of it, as is 2KO and NEWFM. You can see the creative industries at work when you visit fashion houses like Jean Bas or High Tea with Mrs Woo on Darby Street. When you listen to the Screaming Jets in concert or watch a silverchair video on Youtube you’re engaging with the creative industries. 

Films like Young Einstein, made right here in the city, through to the comic genius of Jamie Lewis, on display in the award-winning comedy Mikey’s Extreme Romance  all are part of it. Have you been to see a play at the Civic Theatre, or visited the Art Gallery or Museum, or seen the Newcastle University Choir in action? Well if you have you’ve engaged with Newcastle’s creative industries.

 And they are well supported by a wealth of organisations and festivals. These include Newcastle Now, the Lunaticks Society, Hunter Screen, The Lockup, Renew Newcastle, Catchfire Press and the Newcastle Writers Festival. There are the more traditional players like the Hunter TAFE, the University of Newcastle and all sorts of deeply committed creative people. Each of them knows that there’s far more going on here than just the economic. 

Imagine for a second the world without moving pictures, beautiful buildings, heart-breaking stories or sublime music. It would be a pretty bleak world. 

The creative industries in Newcastle reflect who we are and help create our sense of identity and attachment to our place.

 Most importantly, the cultural works the creative industries produce create a climate for debate about social, cultural and political issues that have implications far beyond the economic.

 And as we engage in those debates we can take comfort that somebody here in our town is telling our stories about this fast changing world.

Dr Phillip McIntyre is head of discipline, communication and media, at the University of Newcastle researching creative industries in the Hunter

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