Business Without Borders – #AWEurope Town Hall

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It’s 9 am and a queue is forming outside London’s Lyric Theatre. As the shimmering sign for Thriller reflects off the grey London sky, you’d be forgiven for thinking this might be an early morning casting call, but leave your leg-warmers at home as this is the first of AWE’s Town Hall series.

Treading the boards of this theatre landmark is Nicola Mendelsohn, CBE of Facebook, alongside an all star cast compromising of Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General at CBI, Riccardo Zacconi, CEO of King and John Berger, CBE of Warner Bros. This esteemed panel kicked off the week discussing how the UK’s creative industry can ensure it continues to punch above its weight on the global stage. Queue talk of Harry Potter, Candy Crush and the importance of failure in order to succeed.

Kicking off the talk was John Berger as he unpacked what exactly made the Harry Potter franchise the phenomenal success story it is. The short answer, talent. From the brilliance of J.K Rowling to the advancement of visual effects (VFX) in the UK over the 10 years of production.

“VFX is a business that sprung to life again in the UK with Harry Potter. In the decade of Potter films, the industry grew up. We started with the first film making around 12% of visual effects in the UK, by the last one we were creating 87% here.”

The importance of great talent in the UK was echoed by the rest of the panel. When asked why King is based in the UK Zacconi said, “London is a great place to be for talent, and our industry depends on that. We say it’s art and science, but without the art, science doesn’t work.”

The creative industries is undoubtedly an exciting place to work within, but as Fairbairn pointed out it is also hugely beneficial to the UK’s economy. “In the last 10 years, the creative industry has moved centre stage to become a strong economic sector.” She mentioned how when meeting with CEO’s who have chosen to base their company in the UK, they state creative talent as a key factor. Brand Britain is known for the export of great design, innovation and Hogwarts.

Whether you’re talking about politics, technology or business it’s safe to say that across the globe we are in a time of huge disruption. Nicola asked what advice panellists would give in order to ride the tide of change.

Buzzword alert – it’s innovation.

Put simply by Zacconi, “When you aren’t doing something different to other people, that is when you start dying. Create a culture that allows innovation. You need to allow to fail. if you do not fail you aren’t running fast enough. ” A little dramatic, perhaps, but the man has a point.

Export was also a hot-topic of this morning’s panel. Fairbairn shared that by 2025 the CBI believe that 600 countries will account for UK GDP. She urged that it is crucial to be building connections outside of a local network in order to keep UK creative industries thriving.

The talk came to close with a quick fire round of Batman vs. Chewbacker but not before the panel touched upon the B-word. Brexit.

When asked what the UK should be doing to continue to trade, get investment and talent in the post-Brexit world, the panel shared much the same advice. Don’t panic, protect access to data and encourage diversity and talent. This isn’t just the home-grown talent of the UK, but the future creators that our culture and reputation attract to join our island. Fairbairn later added that for the UK to remain best in class for creativity, we (the mac owning, flat white sipping kinds) need to speak out about what happens in the sector.

“It’s time for the creative industries voices to be heard loudly.” We hear you Fairbain and over the course of this week we’re sure there will be plenty of shout outs to the great work British businesses do and the future we’re ready to grasp.

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