2021 has been named the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. That’s quite a mouthful and perhaps isn’t grabbing your attention right now, but it should. It is an incredibly important and hopeful vision for better days ahead, something we all need. This United Nations declaration combines the contribution that art and culture makes to economic health (hugely underestimated) with its equally significant role in supporting the delivery of the global 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, signed up to by 193 countries.
The creative industries deliver over £100 Billion a year to the UK economy and over a third of this is direct from cultural activity. Impressive statistics for sure, but the importance of music, performance, live venues, museums, galleries, weekend lessons at arts centres and village hall book clubs goes much deeper. These are the front-line recovery services that will help us all to find our way back after the strictures of Covid.
On the Isle of Wight these effects are especially concentrated; employment in the creative and cultural sector here is almost twice that across the UK and the Island calendar is packed with events from international music festivals and UK tour dates, to spoken word, comedy clubs and exhibitions. An experience of the arts, and the opportunity to join in, to do something creative and expressive with others, is hardwired into Island life.
This deep-rooted cultural connection runs out into the Island’s landscape, over half of which is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected as much for the long time-depth of its legible human intervention as for its remarkable biodiversity. It was the Island’s AONB team that began work 4 years ago on an application for whole of the Isle of Wight to become a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, part of the same United Nations stable as World Heritage Sites and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The Biosphere Reserve accolade was awarded in June 2019, a phenomenal achievement, only the 3rd in England, joining a global family of exceptional places such as Mount Kenya, the Black Forest and the Maldives.
Biosphere Reserves celebrate cultural and biological diversity in equal measure, finding new and better ways to bring these fundamental resources together to help build and sustain healthy lives for their communities. And so, the Island has every reason to enthusiastically join in with the 2021 International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. Its international cultural credentials are stronger than ever, its association with the United Nations is closer than ever, and its determination to protect its creative industries, cultural organizations, performers, artists and collections, is as much an economic necessity as it is a progressive ambition.