New strategy for creative sector
Fife has a wealth of stunning scenery, cultural traditions and heritage. It also has unemployment, deprivation and, for some, hopelessness.
Life in Fife, like many other areas, can be hard and people feel there is no need to take a pride in where they live.
A lack of opportunity can stop people from even attempting to harness their potential nevermind ever realising it. And, if you’re not academically minded, you could think there is no future in areas like music, photography, fashion, the performing arts, or computer games.
However, that could all be about to change.
This week Fife Cultural Trust and Fife Council launched Create in Fife’s strategy for 2014 which aims to do everything it can to make sure Fife is at the forefront when it comes to building and growing its creative and cultural industries.
The plan, which sets out a vision not just for this year but the next two years, is primarily directed at the visual arts, crafts, writing and publishing, design and software industries.
These industries account for 4.9 per cent of employment in Fife - around 4100 people. The sector’s current turnover is estimated to be £175m. Create in Fife’s action plan wants to see at least 400 new jobs and a £25m increase in turnover by 2017.
Fife Cultural Trust chief executive Heather Stuart explained why the creative industries are so important to Fife’s economic future.
“Our creative communities are a huge part of the heart and soul of Fife and we have so many creative people doing great things, we need to provide them with the right support to fulfil their potential and continue to deliver what they are best at and ensure their businesses are sustainable and continue to contribute to the local economy and quality of life in the area. We want Fife to be a place people want to live, be part of thriving business and creative environment and a place that people want to visit to experience that.
“There is a lot of talent out there and we are working with other organisations like Fife College, Fife Contemporary Art and Craft, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, and Fife Council to provide a unified framework for people in these sectors, particularly young people. We want Fife to become a dynamic centre for cultural excellence and enterprise.”
Heather said the main challenges facing anyone taking steps to further a ‘creative career’ include finance and having access to sales and marketing advice, and training and development opportunities, while businesses may also struggle to find a suitably skilled workforce.
The aim of Fife Cultural Trust, working with other partners, is to provide the support necessary to overcome these obstacles so that, in time, Fife will be recognised locally, nationally and internationally as a creative place where these industries have been nurtured and allowed to thrive.
Fife Councillor Lesley Laird, executive spokesperson for business, enterprise, economy and planning, said she believes that across Fife there are pockets of “untapped talent”.
She said: “Many creative people work on their own and others come together to showcase their talent at events like Open Studios North Fife, the Pittenweem Arts Festival and the Cupar Arts Festival. These events not only give people a profile for their work but are great for our economy both in terms of visitors from within Fife and visitors from elsewhere.
“One of the key objectives of the economic strategy is to make it much easier for people to access information about what is on in Fife and one way we are looking to do this is to improve our digital communication channels.
“All of the different websites about Fife can make it very confusing so we are in the process of reviewing what we currently do with a view to finding a better way to signpost visitors to areas of interest, whether its golf, art galleries or somewhere to eat or help with starting a small business.”
Working with young people and giving them access to opportunities is another key area and one which Heather and Lesley both say is key to Fife’s future.
Lesley explained: “Our economic development team is working with business, education and also charity groups like Wildhearts on a number of initiatives to improve employability, raise awareness, aspiration and attainment. We have launched several initiatives in Fife’s schools such as Careers Unlimited and most recently Micro Tyco which challenges pupils to take £1 for four weeks and make and run a viable business supported by business mentors. We believe this type of learning encourages pupils to think creatively about business and apply their learning in a practical way. We also want young people to realise that there are also opportunities in Fife for people who don’t want to take an academic path.”
Heather went on to say, “Our Think Innovation! project aims to work with partners like Fife College, FCA&C, and Falkland’s Centre for Stewarship to provide support to emerging creative talent and will engage with over 1000 young people during a three-year period to support them into cultural and creative employment opportunities.”
Fife Cultural Trust Factfile:
The Trust was established in October 1, 2012 following a merger of Fife Council Libraries, Arts, Museums and Archives (LAMA) and pre-existing Trust services (AtFife).
FCT operates Fife’s 43 libraries, three mobile libraries, 12 museums and heritage centres, and four ON at Fife theatre and community venues - the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy, the Rothes Halls in Glenrothes, Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall and the Lochgelly Centre.
It had been poised to take over St Andrews’ Byre Theatre but this folded before the take-over was signed-off. It is understood that it may still be interested in taking over the running of the venue.
FCT provides advice and support on activities, events and funding to 400 individuals and organisations.
Capital projects have included working in partnership with Fife Council on a £2.5m refurbishment of Kirkcaldy’s central Museum and Art Gallery, a multi-million redevelopment of Dunfermline Museum and Art Gallery, and a new home for Newburgh Library to make it more accessible to visitors, and facelift at Buckhaven Library.
The Trust employs over 400 staff and has a turnover in excess of £11m.