Earth Without Art is just ‘Eh’

Why the Creative Industries are Important to Society

I have come to realise just how important and effective the arts and creative industries can be in tackling social issues.

Charlotte tells This Is It! why she believes the Creative Industries are so important to society and how her internship at Geese Theatre has influenced her opinion.

For centuries there has been a debate amongst the creative community about the purpose and values of art and culture. Whilst there are many, such as Victorian art critic John Ruskin, who believed the function of art was to serve a didactic purpose, there has been a strong rebuttal from others who have championed the approach of “art for art’s sake”.

My internship with Geese Theatre Company has been a major influence in my understanding of how the arts can tackle social issues

Whilst I would be quick to argue the arts should be supported for their own intrinsic value, it is undeniable the creative industries can have a hugely positive impact on our society. For instance, researcher François Matarasso discusses the social benefits of engagement with the arts in his paper ‘Use or Ornament’. Over two years, Matarasso studied a varied cohort of citizens who took part in various arts projects and reported that their participation facilitated personal growth, enhanced social cohesion, environmental renewal and improved health. In other words, the study showed that engagement with the arts (in a variety of forms) had a beneficial impact on societal issues, helping to increase people’s confidence and employability, and even improving connections between different communities.

My internship with Geese Theatre Company, completed as part of the Creative Employment Programme, has been a major influence in my understanding of how the arts can tackle social issues and why the creative industries are so important.

Geese Theatre Company provide an excellent example of how powerful these so called ‘soft’ approaches can be

Geese Theatre Company is a small, but extremely powerful, organisation based in Moseley, Birmingham. They use interactive theatre and drama-based group sessions to address offending behaviour and issues within the Criminal Justice System. Established in 1987, Geese’s work is centred on an innovative combination of drama-based activities and use of their trademark masks, by which the skilled team of practitioners explore the distinctions between external presenting behaviours and internal experiences.

if Geese can help to rehabilitate one offender, the economy can retain costs of approximately £26,000 per year

Geese Theatre, Emma

Image: Geese Theatre

Whilst many people have been quick to criticise the use of arts and culture to tackle social issues, Geese Theatre Company provide an excellent example of how powerful these so called ‘soft’ approaches can be. For example, empirical research surrounding their approach has proved the use of theatre to be very effective, particularly when dealing with offenders, as it provides participants with problem solving and communication tools in an active and engaging way, regardless of literacy levels. But perhaps where Geese’s impact is most evident is in the testimonials of participants, one stating “I went on a Geese course and this saved my life.”

Some critics have even claimed that the arts and creative industries are guilty of ‘policy piggybacking’

Having completed an internship with Geese as Communications Assistant and demonstrating the benefits of their approach to audiences through various marketing campaigns, I have come to realise just how important and effective the arts and creative industries can be in tackling social issues. Not just in economic terms – if Geese can help to rehabilitate one offender, the economy can retain costs of approximately £26,000 per year – but also in terms of social cohesion Geese Theatre Company’s use of drama and creative techniques evidently has the ability to positively impact on a ‘problematic’ sector of society.

I am also keen to champion the creative industries on their own merits.

Drawing on the evidence from Geese Theatre Company and Matarasso’s research, it is clear the creative industries can be hugely important in creating social cohesion, despite criticism from many policy makers that the evidence is too soft, and draws on only qualitative experiences. Some critics have even claimed that the arts and creative industries are guilty of ‘policy piggybacking’, attributing relevant social outcomes to their work in order to attract funding and obtain financial security.

Geese Theatre: Dave

Image: Geese Theatre

Whilst to me, the evidence from both empirical research and my personal experience working with Geese is enough to convince me that the arts are a unique and successful tool for improving our economy, and society as a whole I am also keen to champion the creative industries on their own merits. To quote Elenora Belfiore on the intrinsic value of the arts, “Culture is not a means to an end. It is an end itself.”

To find out more about Geese Theatre have a look at their website, to read more of Charlotte’s work check out her This Is Us! page.