UK and Creative Europe: end of the story?

March 6, 2020, 2:08 pm

Following the publication of the UK Government’s EU negotiation mandate the UK will not be seeking to participate in the next Creative Europe programme due to start in January 2021. Beyond the loss of funding, the UK’s retreat from Creative Europe could be a blow to the international mobility, visibility and connections that UK artists and cultural practitioners established thanks to this funding scheme. 

Whatever the reasons that brought the British Government to withdraw from the Creative Europe programme, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for domestic funding to substitute the role of EU programmes in developing networks and cross-border collaboration within the Cultural and Creative Sectors (CCS). Read our article on this topic. 

The benefits that Creative Europe brought to the UK cultural and creative sectors in the last years are sustained by hard data. Creative Europe Desk (CED) UK reports how, since its launch in 2014 and until 2018, Creative Europe has awarded €89.5 million to 376 UK-based cultural and creative organisations and audiovisual companies (for an average of €18.4 million a year), and helped distribute 190 UK films in other European countries. Besides the direct sources of financing, Creative Europe grants leveraged additional funding: UK organisations involved in the Culture strand’s projects have more than doubled their Creative Europe grants, generating over €20 million in match-funding.

But measuring the impact of the european funds only through their economic returns would be limiting: Creative Europe’s benefits far exceed the monetary grant funding. CED UK’s report on the impact of Creative Europe in the UK, and the UK Parliament’s inquiry report on “The potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market” show the programme’s powerful effect on building international networks, growing audiences, generating jobs and skills, and much more.

Creative Europe has provided the UK with formal and informal opportunities for professional training, up-skilling and peer-learning in international contexts, with a particular benefit to younger professionals. These opportunities have often translated to further employment, business development and collaborations, which help build capacity in the sector: around 150 UK audiovisual professionals are trained every year by Creative Europe’s MEDIA-supported international training schemes. Creative Europe has contributed  and contributes to the UK’s creative industries reach at home and internationally. Culture projects funded with UK partners until 2018 were set to reach 61 million audience members – with 7 million of those based in the UK.

Many  organisations across the European CCS advocated for the UK to maintain participation in the Creative Europe funding programme. The Publishers Association, the Museums Association, the British Council and PACT all emphasised the benefits that membership of Creative Europe has brought to the UK. Their evidence added that in many sectors British projects are disproportionately successful in applying for funding and that demand from other EU organisations to work in partnership means that “the UK has been involved in 44% of the projects.

Also British organisations are mobilising and advocating for solutions to overcome the barriers that this “additional” withdrawal is posing: the Musicians’ Union, for example, is calling on the Government and Parliament to back a Musicians’ Passport for UK music professionals  working in the EU post-Brexit. This Musicians’ Passport would ideally last a minimum of two years, be free or cheap, cover all EU member states and be reciprocal, so that artists based in the EU can share their music in the UK too.

Despite the wide spectrum of benefits highlighted by these evidences, the future of the UK seems to be outside Creative Europe. Nonetheless, the opportunities to continue exchanges and collaborations between the British and the European cultural sector are many and real.

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