Ian Livingstone, champion of the creative industries

Ian Livingstone, champion of the creative industries
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

July 3rd 2014 at 11:38AM

We speak to the newly-appointed ambassador about his role to boost games, films, TV, fashion and more

As reported this morning, industry veteran Ian Livingstone has been appointed as ambassador to the creative industries for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

The appointment was announced last night as part of the launch for Create UK, a strategy designed to improve both the skills and profile of all creative industries – including games, TV, film, fashion, publishing and more – as a unified sector.

"We've asked one of the giants of the games industry, Ian Livingstone, to act as our champion," said Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, at last night's event.

"Many of you will be familiar with his work in the games industry, he built himself up enormously as a key figure in helping to negotiate the tax treatment for the industry. He's also a highly successful entrepreneur and really understands those links between business and creativity, which is at the heart of what we're doing.

"His role will be to promote your industries to government, bring to government the things that we need to do to support you and I hope, I'm sure, will be a massively successful ambassador for your industries."

The fact that a games industry figure has been appointed to represent all creative industires is a credit to both our own industry and Livingstone himself. We caught up with him at last night's event to find out more about his new role and what he hopes to accomplish. 

What does this role mean for you, and for the games industry?

I've been asked to become a creative industries ambassador for BIS and help link BIS and DCMS closer together. Clearly the creative industries falls under DCMS, but we need BIS to be informed as they are a powerhouse of the economy, and to be part of Vince Cable's industrial strategy is very important.

BIS needs to know what it is about the creative industries that's important. It's not just about art for art's sake, it's not just about cultural impact, it's about economic impact. I want to raise the profile of the creative industries – and of course the games industry within this – and in turn feed back to DCMS. I'll also be a digital champion and a creative industries champion in the UK and outside the UK.

What are your priorities as you approach this new role? What do you want to accomplish?

I think we've all seen the creative industries positioned as being the 'fluffier' industries run by lovies. It doesn't have the same credence as other sectors. So to see creative industries as a sector in the same way as pharmaceuticals or financial services is a great first step. The Creative Industries Council has been working for the last two years towards that goal, but now appointing an ambassador is going to further that ambition. 

It's not just about art for art's sake, it's not just about cultural impact, it's about economic impact.

Ian Livingstone

My personal goal is to get everyone in the country to understand the value of creativity for its cultural, social and economic impact – particularly in games, which have never been seen in the best light by the media or within government. I want to show the people and the government that it's a fantastic career choice and it's a great investment opportunity for the financial community.

It's about understanding the value of creativity, understanding the commercialisation of an original idea that has value. And now we have the internet, we're able to scale that to global audiences. Historicially, I think traditional industries have always had more of a photo opportunity – you know, hard hats, buildings, lots of people – and now we can say that small groups of people can create incredible amounts of wealth through their intellectual property and scale to larger audiences through digital.

What can games developers do to aid this industrial strategy and promote the creative industries?

I think it's important to voice what they're doing, locally and nationally. Let's not forget that Grand Theft Auto V was the biggest entertainment release across any medium – bigger than any film, music group, TV franchise – and yet it's not celebrated in the same way the big blockbuster films are. And I'm going to make sure, in my role as ambassador to the creative industries, that games get their due recognition, both within the creative industries and on a national basis.