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The Creative Industries must make themselves heard

The Creative Industries must make themselves heard

Britain has always been a leader in the creative industries, but a question mark hovers over its future. At a time of Brexit, an NHS stretched to breaking point, and spending cuts, it is easy for industries that are doing relatively well to be overlooked by Government but to do so could be a disaster. This has never been truer than for the creative industries, who enjoyed a bumper year in 2016 (contributing £84 billion to the UK economy) but are largely ignored by policymakers. Yet the continued success of this sector is by no means guaranteed.

UK creative industries

Brexit will have far-reaching consequences for the creative industries in a myriad of ways. One of the most significant changes is likely to be to freedom of movement, which could negatively impact the sector’s ability to attract key talent from overseas. Likewise, any requirement for British citizens to have visas to work in Europe could be costly and time-consuming. This will be problematic for anyone in the industry who needs to frequently work in European countries, e.g. musicians on tour. Plus, a business’ ability to protect its intellectual property (which is largely governed by EU law at the moment) could be significantly reduced, affecting everything from design to publishing, film and music.

Additionally, the future funding that Britain’s creative sectors get from EU bodies could be at risk. Figures from Creative Europe show that it supported 230 cultural and creative firms in the UK in 2014/15. There are questions over what will happen to this, and other similar funding streams, after Brexit, and the government should take steps to reassure bodies who might be affected.

Could social media save english cricket?

For cricket fans the world over, 2005 evokes every superlative in the cliché book. The Greatest Ashes Series of all time, the series to end all series, theatre on an unparalleled scale in the history of cricket.

What a load of nonsense. The 2005 Ashes is the worst thing that ever happened to cricket. It’s the year that cursed a generation.

Ever since that fateful summer, my relationship with the gentleman’s game has been tumultuous, confused and epitomised by endless frustration. Simply, it was too much too soon. As an 11 year old I watched in awe as everyone I knew (yes, even the year 6 cool kids) experienced a sort of religious cricket awakening. Suddenly everyone was talking about the Ashes, everyone wanted to play cricket all day.

But in a sickening twist of fate, what followed that euphoric summer was a gaping chasm and the haunting realisation that everything would simply never be that perfect again.

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A Natwest T20 Blast match between Hampshire and Glamorgan. Image courtesy of Warren Duffy on flickr

Cricket promptly disappeared from terrestrial TV to Sky, depriving the generation that followed mine of the ease of access to the sport that so captured the imagination that summer.

And now here we are, seemingly scratching around from week-to-week in search of a way to save the terribly British game of cricket, right here in Britain.

For those who watched that series, there were so many moments that were unforgettable:

Freddie Flintoff and that incendiary double-wicket over, Kevin Pietersen’s blonde Mohawk, Ian Bell waking drenched in sweat as Shane Warne haunted his nightmares, Simon Jones swinging the ball like it were Mark Ramprakash’s hips, Michael Clarke shouldering arms and having his off stump obliterated, Simon Katich shouldering arms and having his off stump obliterated, the King of Spain, Harmison’s slower ball, Woodworm bats – I’m not sure a single member of my colt team didn’t buy a Woodworm bat in 2005– that summer could not conceivably have been better.

image courtesy of intocricket on flickr

I don’t know what’s better, Freddie Flintoff’s smoulder, or that majestic Woodworm bat. image courtesy of intocricket on flickr

English Cricket has failed to replicate this ever since, and while the move away from Free-to-Air Television has doubtless stifled its exposure, it has been a broader failure to evolve how it speaks to younger audiences that has quickened the sport’s demise.

The Big Bash League has shown the positive impact that television coverage can have on the game – viewing figures and attendances have simultaneously soared in Australia – but there is a tendency to pin all the blame on TV and overlook other shortcomings. This is particularly pertinent with under 16’s in 2017 – they simply don’t consume news and information from the TV screen in the way we did a decade ago.

Cricket doesn’t hold the global appeal of football and doesn’t have a massively popular and engaging console series like FIFA or Football Manager to fall back on, so it needs to find more innovative ways to engage fans.

Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become the nerve centre which drives the news and sporting agenda for young people. If ever there was a time in which TV could be circumnavigated, it is in this age of social media. Other sports dominate these channels – Youtube has even made stars of vloggers who upload videos of them playing FIFA.

It’s incredible to think, but people playing football games in their bedroom pull in hundreds of thousands of viewers every day while many cricket counties struggle to fill out their grounds. Football is omnipresent, people know everything about it, and they are constantly consuming more information about it.

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The Indian Premier League and Big Bash in Australia have made cricket modern and accessible. image courtesy of BubbleOnFire on flickr.

Conversely, cricket is conspicuous by its absence. There is a pervasive, largely unchallenged notion that cricket is a dry, boring sport, something that few would have asserted a decade ago. Has the game become more boring? On the contrary, the perfection of the T20 format has created the perfect bite-size entry point for new fans.

But what has changed is the way we talk about cricket. At its best, cricket ebbs and flows, it provides tension, shock and theatre. But large swathes of the British public seem to have forgotten this. We need to communicate with a modern audience in a language they understand to fight these misconceptions.

Social media is awash with influencers who are interested in sport, not just You tubers and Instagrammers, but what about musicians too? Actors? Young people are constantly engaging with content from these figures and are being influenced by what they see.

Greg James is just one example of the kind of ambassador the sport needs. He’s a fantastic advocate for the game and has landed himself a role presenting on BT Sport. More assets of a similar profile could have a tangible impact on exposing the game.

Why not get influencers involved with England’s players, filming themselves in the nets with Jason Roy or Jos Buttler learning the game? Going along to a match with Greg James? People are so disengaged from cricket in this country that there is a unique opportunity to educate people and rebrand the sport in the process. Cricket is tongue-in-cheek and accessible, it’s a game that lends itself to oddities and humour.

Cricket needs more advocates in the media like Greg James, but preferably with sleeves on. image courtesy of Ric Sumner on flickr

Cricket needs more advocates in the media like Greg James, but preferably with sleeves on. image courtesy of Ric Sumner on flickr

The Big Bash and Indian Premier League are proof that cricket holds mass appeal. I genuinely believe that if we get people watching and playing the game, some will not be able to help but fall in love with it.

The raw materials are there to make cricket a resounding success in England. A formidably talented generation of players are coming into their prime, including the fiery Ben Stokes – heir apparent to Flintoff, and the extraordinarily explosive Jos Buttler, renowned for swatting the ball dismissively out of the ground. The Women’s game in the UK is professional, and has made huge leaps in recent years.

The tools are there to catapult cricket back to the levels of 2005. Social media is just one avenue to achieve this, but one that can make a palpable difference if treated seriously and harnessed effectively by the powers running cricket.

 

The rise and fall of reality TV

Over the last couple of decades, the nation has been enthralled by the phenomenon of reality TV. The idea of watching real people, doing real things, live on television was an idea that has fascinated and captured the majority of us.

The genre first started with The Real World in 1992, a program which ran on MTV looking into the lives of a group of people aged 18–25, usually representing different races, genres and sexual orientations. It wasn’t until the launch of Cilla Black’s Blind Date, however, that reality TV really kicked off and this was then followed by Big Brother and Survivor, both of which were not only global successes but became global franchises spawning dozens of countries around the world.

It’s no surprise the world became obsessed with these shows. They allow us to feel emotions and connect with people from the comfort of our own homes and in the company of our friends and family. They make us laugh, cry and even celebrate and the industry cleverly responded to this by launching more and more new programs following the same theme but with a different twist each year.

Reality TV figures are dwindling.

Over the past few years, it appears the magic has started to fade, however, as the TV ratings of some of the biggest and most popular reality shows continue to fall. X Factor’s viewing figures steadily fell from an average of 14 million viewers per show in its peak (2010) to 9.6 million last year and Britain’s Got Talent’s viewers fell from 13 million in its peak (2009) to an average of just eight million last year. The Only Way is Essex, which started in 2010, had its peak viewing figures back in series three with an average of 1.7 million viewers (2011), as did I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here which peaked in 2004 at 11 million.

The latest series of Britain’s Got Talent which came to a close on the weekend had a promising start with the launch show having the highest number of viewers in the programmes existence, however, on Saturday night ITV drew its lowest ever audience for a BGT final with only 10.7m people tuning in. This was despite the excitement of an 80 year old woman being swung around the stage by her 40 year old dance teacher, a magician freeing himself from a straitjacket to escape the jaws of death and new operatic boy band Collabro being crowned winners.

Is it true to say therefore that the advert including the judge’s children, which aired in the run-up to the series, is what boosted the show’s ratings at first? It got people talking, created an initial stir and buzz around the show and put it back in the press and on people’s radars. Or, was it the introduction of the big gold button directing contestants straight through to the live finals that created initial excitement and intrigue from the British public? It certainly created more opportunity for coverage within the press as we found out which acts each of the judges chose for their one selection.

Either way, the excitement quickly dwindled and interest was rapidly lost. So as a nation are we too accustomed to the shock and drama of reality TV now or are we just bored of watching talent shows where the majority of contestants have little to offer?

New reality TV shows with slightly different twists are airing the whole time, such as the current Ex on the Beach which first aired in April of this year, but viewing figures of these new shows aren’t reaching nearly as high as before. The highest viewing figure Ex on the Beach has seen for example is 789,000.

This year will see the return of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole to the X Factor to try and bring the viewing figures of this show back up. The move has again caused controversy following Simon and Cheryl’s public fall out a few years ago and has therefore expectedly generated a lot of media attention. This can only leave us wondering whether the X Factor 2014 viewing figures will shoot back up too and if so, for how long.