From heavy industry to ballet: there is hope for our economy after all!

George Osborne’s autumn statement failed to give us any hope for the future, any vision for the development of our economy, other than to say that if we reduce the deficit and reduce the role of the state, the private sector will miraculously emerge.

This, coupled with the relentless media focus on the austerity, pain and misery that we’re all going to face over the next five years; why don’t we just cancel Christmas and be done with it!

Hope is not about false optimism, we all know the next few years are going to be a struggle, but hope is about giving ourselves a sense of direction, about giving us the capacity to deal with what is to come and, perhaps most importantly, about ensuring that those sparks of ingenuity, enterprise and creativity, are not starved of oxygen or crushed by the weight of the unhappiness in our economy. As Marcus Aurelius said, ‘Why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it’.

Last week, I had the opportunity to explore a  hope-giving project in Glasgow, just ten minutes walk north of Glasgow city centre in Speirs Lock, part of the Forth and Clyde Canal, constructed in 1790. This is a brilliant illustration of just how the economy in Glasgow and indeed, the rest of the UK, has changed over the last 30 years. Once a major centre for heavy industry, nowadays Speirs Lock produces ballet dancers, opera singers and fashion designers.

Glasgow City Council and its partner ISIS Regeneration,  hope that this is just the start and that the cultural and creative transformation of the area will ensure that the area’s economy begins to thrive once more.

I spent a couple of days in one of the brand new ballet studios in the Scottish Conservatoire, based at Speirs Lock, where I was facilitating the Future City Jobs Game.

Future City Jobs is a new project, devised by the British Council which aims to address youth unemployment by harnessing the potential of the creative and cultural industries.  Being there gave us great inspiration as to the possible sources of future jobs and business for young people in the future.

Speirs Lock is a vision of what is possible with a little imagination and belief. It is a vision of a different type of economy. One that still produces jobs and new businesses, still relies on traditional skills and still demands hard work. It’s also a sector that is much wider than simply the headline acts of musicians, singers or dancers. The supply chain embraces many other aspects of the economy, including construction, security, lighting/sound engineers, catering, hospitality and even wigmakers!

Not that I’m trying to pretend that cultural and creative industries are going to solve all our problems, or even begin to generate enough jobs for all those who find themselves out of work in Glasgow. At least, in the current gloomy atmosphere, projects like Speirs Lock give us a modicum of hope, a sense of direction and an alternative vision for our economy which is not simply about the sanctity of the financial services, big business takeovers or public sector cuts


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Nigel Bellingham
Nigel Bellingham
12 years ago

Thanks for the plug for future city jobs, Sarah. For anyone who wants to know more about the ideas this project generates you can follow us on twitter (@futurecityjobs) or on Facebook (creative cities).

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