Creative industries could be at heart of defining Derry's economic ambitions

Fri, 09/12/2011 - 12:15 -- Editor

SDLP Foyle MLA, Colum Eastwood, says that the development of creative industries offer Derry’s economy an opportunity to significantly diversify its economic base.

"The creative industries is a generic term used to describe enterprise and employment in areas such as advertising, design, media, film, IT software etc.

The recently launched draft Programme for Government contains a commitment to support 200 Creative Industry projects during the course of the next four years.

In light, this week, of further blows to employment in Derry, proposed by the Executive in Stormont , the Creative Industries offer the city a chance to define its economic ambition over the course of the next number of years. The £4 million currently available from the Executive for the promotion of such industries should be significantly enhanced.

It is important in the next number of years that Derry targets economic enterprises with the prospect of growth and the security of sustainability. Emerging from the malign reverberations of this current recession, it is vital that Derry’s economic base evolves the capacity to gain from those industries which have the potential to create jobs, particularly high-quality jobs.

The era of mass production has been over for some considerable time. The modern economy will be driven by small businesses, fashioned to export high-end technologically advanced products. Both our private and public sectors will benefit if we are flexible enough to react to this reality.

Over the last number of years creative industries have grown by 24%, more than doubling the combined total growth of all other sector. This industry’s share of the economic pot is still, however, relatively low, equating to only 2% of the Gross Value Added to the northern economy. This is in comparison to 5.6% in Great Britain. South of the border, as far back as 2006, the creative industries contributed 5.5 billion to general economic output. There is clearly therefore great scope in the North for considerably more growth within the overall sector’.

Derry is, I believe, ready and able to define much of its economic ambition around these creative industries.

The sale this week of Singularity offers a very timely example of the potential inherent in these industries. Padraig Canavan should be commended, he and his employees offer a perfect template of what can be achieved.

Likewise those familiar with the work of organisations like Digital Derry, working under a shoe string budget, will be aware of the vast opportunities they have identified if the proper conditions and culture are manifested locally and regionally.

The proposed developments at Fort George and Ebrington will play a major role in the attraction of these creative firms. The ethos and substance of the City of Culture will also help in this endeavour. The Programme of Government’s commitment to develop and support 200 new creative enterprises is welcome. It should be ensured, however, that Derry is clearly designated as the indisputable hub for these industries.

These two sites should not however be the limit of our ambition. 21% of those involved, thus far, in the creative industry sector have been self-employed. An entrepreneurial ethic, backed up by necessary micro-finance facilities, should also be encouraged and promoted.

The current £4 million Executive fund for the promotion of these industries is insufficient given its growth potential. It is a further example of economic illiteracy from Stormont’s leadership.’