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Saatchi's New Creators' Showcase: the best of British

The Saatchi & Saatchi London chief creative officer on the importance of the agency's scheme to attract new talent into the industry

By Franki Goodwin

When I swaggered out of Glasgow School of Art and into the beginning of the noughties, I was basking in the glow of three Fs. A First, a Free education and a bit of Funding (a bursary from the RSA’s annual stamp design competition). It’s fair to say, I was pretty F-ing full of myself.

I didn’t hesitate, from Glasgow to London I went – in one hand an A1 portfolio case (if you know, you know) and in the other, my treasured first generation iMac. I took the train, but when I think about it now, it was actually an international wave of British creative confidence that I was riding. It’s no coincidence that, as I heaved my global icon of the modern design revolution onto the train, I knew the product designer's name was Jonathan Ive, and I knew he was British. But seriously… He couldn’t have made it a bit lighter?

My friends and I felt like we were part of a creative movement – recent GSA alumni included Douglas Gordan, Dave Shrigley, Jenny Saville and Travis. Trainspotting, the biggest British film of the decade, was not set in an English country house but in the backstreets of my hometown. London called, but the whole of Britain had a creative voice that was being heard around the world.

Ten years later, the crushing disappointments that pepper any creative career and a very real financial crash had landed a few punches. But as I watched Danny Boyle’s Olympic ceremony at the offices of Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton’s Revolution films, I was still standing and I was in great company. British creativity was alive and well. Funding, influence and representation had carried us through.

But it’s been 10 years since then and British creativity is under threat. The 23-year-old version of me now is burdened with college debt, the rising cost of living and probably had their degree show on fucking Zoom. That’s if they even got that far. Where is the funding, the influence, and the representation for them?

Last year in the UK government ministers were accused of one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory with nearly 50 per cent of funding being taken away from creative arts subjects. And reports show that government funding for music, arts and cultural programmes in schools following the pandemic equated to £9.40 per student for a whole year.

If we want to inspire a diverse new generation of British creators we need to reverse this trend. When public funding for creativity decreases, creativity becomes accessible only to the people who can fund themselves. Recent data suggests that just 16 per cent of talent in creative industries comes from a working-class background. How do we expect that to improve with this kind of assault on the funding of creative education?

Work that represents Modern Britain needs to be made by the diverse talent of Modern Britain, not just feature diverse talent. Casting cannot become a cover-up for creating the conditions for a much deeper representation problem in the UK than we have now.

But it’s not just the lost funding and loss of representation it could lead to. It feels like our industry’s creative influence on the broader brand of the UK, and its perception globally has also lost its importance and energy. There is a place for The Crown and Downton, but are those British exports going to carry a kid from Newcastle or Leeds down to London with a burning belief that their creative ideas will be heard? They probably wouldn’t bother with the train fare.

Saatchi & Saatchi have been a part of the fabric and influence of Britain for 50 years. We’ve run the New Creators' Showcase at Cannes in some form for the last 32. This year, in partnership with Channel 4 and two amazing curators in Caleb Femi and Viv Molokwu, we’re putting our focus on British creators. If we can, we want to play a small role in helping shape what the next creative generation of Britain can be, and celebrate a new wave of under-funded, under-represented, and yet to be influential creators on a global stage to capture the spirit and energy of what our country can be.

Forget what you know about British Creativity. We have to stop being reassured by our glorious creative past and really step up to help shape our creative future.

Franki Goodwin is Chief Creative Officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London. She will be speaking during Cannes Lions at The Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators' Showcase on Thursday 23 June at 10:30am

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