Last week I was kindly given a tour of the newly refurbished Broadcasting House by the BBC’s former Head of Workplace, Chris Kane. (Thanks, Chris!). At its heart, both physically and metaphorically, is a large, airy expanse of desks and screens that will become the combined home for the news and editorial teams of Radios 1, 1Xtra, 2, 3. 4 and the World Service.
Inspired by the ancient Greek Agora, this back-to-the-future idea brings the BBC’s national and international journalists together for the first time to stimulate the flow of ideas between them. Want to know what’s happening on the Foreign Desk? Don’t call or send an email. Get up and go see them! The newsroom, indeed the whole of Broadcasting House is designed to allow people to connect eye-to-eye, to bump in the corridors, to conspire over a coffee.
It is an environment designed to stimulate the interaction and happy accidents required for creativity. In our post-industrial world, creativity generates wealth. You’d imagine you’d see more of this in a country where creativity is our strong suit and we are trying to get the economy going.
And you’d be wrong.
This government, like an endless succession before them, have spotted that creativity is resilient. It has a way of surviving – despite politicians. So while they bang on in public about supporting the arts, culture, and the creative industries they privately push them to the bottom of the priority list. They slash arts funding in a way that has even die-hard Tories like Boris Johnson manning the barricades. They proudly announce a new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) that marginalises the arts, design, music, dance and drama as non-essential second-class citizens of the curriculum. And they reward their very own culture department (DCMS) that has just delivered one of the most successful cultural events in recent history, the 2012 Olympics, with redundancy notices!
Like the BBC’s creatives, the staff of the DCMS are also moving*. Not to stimulate growth – but to save money. And who are they going to be sharing their cramped, low-ceilinged, cut price new quarters with? The bean-counters of the Treasury. Be careful, David, George et al. If you don’t give British creativity space to grow, soon there may be no beans to count!
* Thanks to the ever-alert David Henke for pointing this out.
PS Join Danny Boyle in letting the Government know you think creativity deserves space in the curriculum through Bacc for the Future