I have had a really interesting couple of days. On Tuesday I visited my friends Railsim.com who make Railworks and Rail Simulator and are an example of a wondeful British technology company. They are based in the Historic Naval Dockyard at Chatham and are very much at the cutting edge of computerised train and railway simulation. The Dockyard is a little bit rough round the edges nowadays, but no one can doubt its provenance and the part it played in Britain’s technological past and now, hopefully present. Surrounded by history and with access to talent from the University of the Creative Arts which is part of the University of Kent, these guys will hopefully be contributing to our creative digital industries not of the future, but of now.
Yesterday, I attended a really interesting presentation yesterday at Portcullis House, the place near The House of Commons that MPs use to conduct day to day business, about Creative Clusters, titled ‘Critical Mass – growing creative clusters’ . It was a report produced by the uber clever people at NESTA ( those who worked tirelessly with Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope on the Livingstone Hope Review) and looked at the data that supported the establishment of clusters of creative businesses and creative people throughout the UK. It was supposed to be chaired by Louise Bagshawe MP, but she could not make it. It was supported by MPs who represent the creative industries via the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Comittee. Don Foster, Damian Collins and Ivan Lewis.
They conducted a reasonably structured debate once they had each got their speeches made and out of the way. I use the word reasonably for one simple reason, namely politicians cannot help themselves from being party political. Instead of debating the subject and suggesting creative ways of helping foster our wonderful creative industries, they insist on political point scoring. The debate masquerades as a robust and comprehensive piece, but actually ends up as a crescendo of mainly red and blue noise, with a hint of yellow. You just end up with a murky brown almost a rusty effect.
Clustering is not an unusual concept in life, indeed humans love clustering in their work life and within their social life. Think pub, office, sports stadia, gigs, restaurants, demonstrations, Singstar, the internet. But clusters become places where the action is, where ideas are exchanged and ultimately where money or other commodities pass from one place to another. Indeed Parliament is a massively important cluster for us all as it is where the real business of government takes place.
The role of the State in the evolution or development of clusters is a tricky one. Like most things in life we all need balance. Our eyes and our ears help up balance ourselves. Our voices should reflect what we see and what we hear and what we think as a result of those stimuli. Free markets and a bit of chaos theory, if left unchecked end up with Big Business at the helm. Equally top down State control ends up with the so called Big State and that can be equally extreme. For me neither work because they do not actually represent everyone and thus cannot be democratic, they cede power over many into the hands of few. But if the State exercised no control or intervention then Parliament would not be so vital and knowledge share and debate would become far more polarised.
The point I am trying to make is that sometimes the State needs to decide to stand up to other Sovereign Nations, who are the ultimate self interest groups and look after it’s people. Britain has proud history of democracy, of Sovereign and State working together via the people. A mix of State intervention and free market principles came together in an almost perfect way to build the Royal Navy over a number of years. This was the ultimate fighting machine, multi cultural and multi faceted. Well led in comparison to The Army, it was the ultimate meritocracy. It was both a tool for trade, protection and sometimes national aggression. It saw the development of so much hi-tech during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that arguably it both fuelled and led the Industrial Revolution. And it stood undefeated for 200 years. The point was, it was an example of almost perfect balance, yet the State was always carrying a debt which in turn put pressure on growth (colonialism) and taxation of the people. This is how life works. Sovereign powers have been replaced by multi national globalised businesses and tax is still tax. The new colonies are run by the multinationals and that is life, our job as citizens to figure out how to work within a system and effect change if the will of the majority is there.
Back to yesterday. Two of the politicans had conducted a mini political debate, using the English language in a wonderful way. It was most enjoyable, even if it was actually unproductive. The gathered audience was asked for questions, so I put my hand up. I cannot actually remember exactly what I asked, but it went along these lines:-
I really enjoyed your verbal jousting, something built on the wonders of the English language. Indeed do politicians realise that the traditional bulwark of our creative industries is the English language – think music with lyrics, TV, film and publishing of books – grounded in Britain and the USA. Do you realise that in the creative industries and especially in video games and interactive entertainment, where art meets science, the key driver is not English words, but code. It comes in several different languages of course, but code is fundamental. Yet we have a Department for Education which is headed by people who do not believe that computers should be anywheer near schools, let alone computer science being part of the National Curriculum and espouse the introduction of Latin as a language of the future (see recommendation 1 in the Livingstone Hope Review that states ‘Bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline – see http://www.nesta.org.uk/home1/assets/features/next_gen ). How can the you agree with this, and importantly how can you influence the nation’s need for better skilled citizens?
Needless to say, the answers were political. I made the point, let’s see if we can all influence the outcome. The English language is becoming a universal language. Let’s hope that our nation can keep abreast of the languages of the future. Not only do we need to think different, we need to speak different. Carpe Diem and all that.