A new generation of creative talent is emerging, proving the future of diversity in the arts is digital

·3-min read
‘The world has adapted quickly to online living and we’ve witnessed a genuine explosion of creativity through online platforms’  (Getty Images)
‘The world has adapted quickly to online living and we’ve witnessed a genuine explosion of creativity through online platforms’ (Getty Images)

After a year of closures – which saw theatres, concert venues and art galleries standing empty – the UK’s creative industries are struggling to get back on their feet. Previously growing at five times the rate of the wider economy, these industries are yet to recover to their pre-pandemic levels, even as the world reopens. And it’s the regions outside of London that are hardest hit, with the north-west’s creative sector alone losing £900m due to the pandemic.

But while lockdown brought significant challenges for the UK’s creative sector, it also created opportunities. The world has adapted quickly to online living and we’ve witnessed a genuine explosion of creativity through online platforms. Now we have an opportunity to reinvigorate our creative industries – and not just to ensure their future survival.

In the UK, for too long geographical location, ethnic background and social-economic status have been barriers to entering creative industries like television, film and the arts. Digital open platforms help rebalance this problem by enabling equal access to people from all walks of life and across the entire breadth of the country – better reflecting our diverse modern British society.

Recent YouTube research in partnership with YouGov revealed that people don’t feel they have equal access to working in the creative industries if they live outside of London, with 62 per cent agreeing that not living in the capital can restrict access to working in industries such as broadcast television. Meanwhile, 43 per cent of people in the UK don’t think that they see people on TV who accurately represent those from their region.

To attract and elevate diverse talent from across the country – and not just within the limited bubble of the M25 – we must ensure equal digital access. Talent - especially creative talent - is widely and equally distributed across our great country, but opportunity is not. Old models built around access to centralised gatekeepers meant class, geography and connections all placed limits on who can succeed.

Open platforms are critical to leveling the playing field and a vital conduit to connect the industry with the modern UK viewer. It is an incredibly important way to discover a new generation – and a bigger pool – of diverse creative talent, and in turn to help broaden content producers in the most far reaching corners of Britain. It is also key if our creative industries are to recover post-pandemic.

There’s already a growing community of creators who are side-stepping conventional routes into creative industries. They’ve built thriving careers and next-generation businesses and are redefining the face of media in the process. These creators have built an entire economy by connecting with global audiences and allowing Brits to view the content they love, presented by people they can relate to.

Many of these creators wouldn’t have found opportunities in traditional media, but this doesn’t mean they can’t now work together. Now is an exciting time for traditional and digital media to join forces – after all, TV and online video work better together. By providing an open-to-all platform and encouraging the creation of new and innovative content, opportunities are created for advertisers, broadcasters, creators and publishers alike.

Ben McOwen Wilson is managing director of YouTube UK and Ireland

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