by Shawn Cumberbatch
The National Cultural Foundation is failing Barbados’ cultural practitioners. That’s one of the main findings by an international consultant advising Government on cultural development, who has given the NCF “and similar agencies” the thumbs down, recommending the establishment of a new “publicly funded agency” instead.
Englishman Andrew Senior, who was contracted via a UNESCO project on engendering wider entrepreneurship in Barbados’ cultural and creative industries, said the island’s creative businesses “need more tailored and dedicated support” than that offered by the NCF and company because “their remits conflict with nature of the need”.
The head of British firm Andrew Senior Associates Ltd, who presented his key findings and conclusions to officials and participants at a recent symposium here, did not recommend abandoning the NCF, but said what the country’s cultural practitioners needed was “a publicly funded agency, tasked with developing and delivering a national strategy for creative economy development”.
Another weakness Senior saw was what he called Barbados’ seasonal approach to culture, and he suggested a review of the impact this had on local creative businesses “to ensure that any distortions that are inhibiting growth can be corrected”.
He also urged Government to “review provision of business development advice to create a coherent package for creative businesses”, and “put in place a training programme to ensure that knowledge and advice reflect the dynamism of market and business model changes”.
Senior said a major part of Barbados’ challenge in this area was that “the concept of the creative and cultural industries is not well understood and the absence of robust and coherent economic data makes it impossible both to begin to counter these misapprehensions and undertake evidence-based policy making for the sector”.
The consultant aid he saw the need to not only “prioritise mapping of the creative economy”, but to “build consensus through a public information programme”.
“There is limited understanding of Intellectual Property Rights, which is inhibiting the commerciality and competitiveness of the sector and the emergence of successful entrepreneurs within the sector,” he pointed out as another shortcoming.
Other recommendations included having Barbados scholarships aimed specifically at building a pool of skilled local IP lawyers, commissioning the University of the West Indies to develop special creative licences, consolidating and developing the network of Government stakeholder agencies and departments to create an on-going dialogue and integrated strategy, and stimulating and supporting the creation of new, business focused, mechanisms for networking within and between sectors, including the use of social media and virtual networks.
Finance was another area of inadequacy he identified. There was a need to “build capacity to provide advice on finance models and access to finance that is relevant to creative businesses and reflects their different stages of development”, Senior said.
“Develop a robust, commercial driven, strategy for the development of the creative and cultural industries with the need to extend wider entrepreneurial skills and opportunities at its heart,” he recommended.
“Networks are underdeveloped, under-utilised and require support and investment… Markets are misunderstood and underdeveloped: consequently, opportunities are being missed… Opportunities for protecting and developing cultural identity are not being taken and yet it is essential if the creative and cultural industries are to prosper.
“The education system fails to address the needs of creative and cultural industries and generally fails to value entrepreneurship. There is limited understanding of the need to align strategies and policies for broadcasting, communications, media and technology with creative industries policies. An overall strategy focused on the development of a competitive and sustainable creative economy is required,” he added.
Senior said Barbados had “immense potential” in the cultural industries, but was “really only starting this process”.
“Barbados’ market is too small, it has to reach out beyond Diaspora, region and tourist markets. Empowering young people must be at the heart of this strategy – approaches that challenge and recognise the importance of building wider understanding and engagement, which is sustainable: culturally, socially, environmentally and economically,” he concluded.
“Time is of the essence. Barbados needs better market access through the infrastructure of the global hubs: London and New York. Building South-South trade is critical but it must be strategically developed.” firstname.lastname@example.org