THE VULTURES OF CULTURE AND CREATIVITY
School’s out, and girl are we happy! Lie-ins, swimming, ‘parklife’, tennis, inflatables, shorts and tee shirts. Dreaming of a clear, water-stony turquoise shore in Greece (add your destination of choice), chasing the local fish for fun (and perhaps for dinner): these are the joys of long, languid, lazy days of summer, casually interrupted by a picnic lunch and a cold beer.
Happy holidays to one and all.
BACK TO SCHOOL.
The reality: today we are actually living with, as Suzanne Moore says, “the running down of creative subjects like art and music.” Some stats from The Economist for you: “Of those students taking GCSE maths (a rough measure of the overall pupil population), the share who also sat the music GCSE rose every year this century until 2007, since when it has fallen in most years, from 8% in 2008 to 5.5% last year. Meanwhile, fewer pupils are studying music at A-level.” And from the online design magazine DEZEEN: “The National Society for Education in Art and Design said art and design in schools was being eroded while the Creative Industries Federation described the failure to educate a new generation of creatives as ‘economic suicide.’”
"Curriculum time and provision for art and design is being significantly eroded," said Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD). "The value given to art and design is under threat."’
I am just getting warmed up. As I write, the US Department of State, led by ex-CIA man and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has yet to appoint an artist to represent the USA at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The lack of decision making may be in part due to picking the right ‘artist’ to represent the current ‘values’ of the President. As a progressive liberal (non political), I think that design, creativity, art and music are now being threatened by a powerful combination: firstly, lack of financial and priority investment by Government; and secondly, by a political agenda that controls public funding of the arts unless they are ‘on message.’ According to the Fox News commentator Sean Hannity writing on Twitter, “The ‘left’ loves art and especially taxpayer funded art that is ‘provocative.’” We know from our history this all ends up on a cultural and social bonfire of one sort or another. We naively thought to ourselves ‘never on my doorstep.’
“And what,” you may ask, “has this got to do with your normal stream of consciousness on the subject of branding?”
Here’s a headline:
CREATIVE INDUSTRIES EARN UK ALMOST £92BN ANNUALLY.
Now we all know life is not ‘joined-up,’ but sometimes I think more investment in cross-communication across our elected and public servants would be very cost-effective in the long term. However, that’s yet another dream of mine. Reading about the ‘Creative Industries Council,’ a joint forum between the creative industries and government, I found the following statistics: “The creative industries contributed a record £91.8bn to the UK economy in 2016, official statistics show. The contribution of the UK creative industries — as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA) — rose by 7.6 per cent in 2016, or more than twice as fast as the average 3.5 per cent growth rate in this measure across the UK economy. Between 2010 and 2016, the creative industries sub sectors — which include advertising, film and TV, architecture, publishing, music, design, games, museums and galleries, fashion, crafts, and the creative use of technology — grew their economic contribution by 44.8 per cent, outpacing even the purely digital sector which increased its GVA by 23.3 per cent during this period.”
THE DAILY MILE V. OBESITY CRISIS.
I recently came across The Daily Mile. Rather than rehash the data, let’s get straight to the story:
Over the course of an academic year, a team of experts from Stirling University compared nearly 400 children, aged four to 11, from two primary schools, with one group doing the Daily Mile and the other not. The Daily Mile kids were put through a series of tests to calculate whether they became fitter and whether they lost fat.
The findings, which have just been released, show how they lost an average of four per cent body fat. They were also fitter and more active during the day, while time spent sitting around dropped by an average 18 per cent. These findings have relevance for teachers, policymakers, public health practitioners, and health researchers.
If you are a teacher or parent who would like to get your school doing the Daily Mile, or simply interested, check out thedailymile.co.uk or go to @_thedailymile on Facebook. There is lots of information showing how easy it is to incorporate into the school day and support materials for schools that want to get involved.
This month’s editorial looks at recent news from France where the wine producers have understandably reacted angrily to health minister Agnes Buzyn’s call for larger health warnings on wine bottles. As I said in my response at the time (link here and below), yet again, we are seeing that the default is to legislate through creating fearful graphic warnings on packaging as opposed to education to help change consumer behaviour.
This took me back to a quote I read in medical journal, The Lancet, last year: “It is not unimaginable that bottles of Château Mouton Rothschild, which once bore the artwork of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, might one day be required to have plain packaging and images of oesophageal cancer or a cirrhotic liver.”
Now that really would be the death of Culture and Creativity. The vultures are circling.
See you again when we really go back to school.
DO NEW FRENCH WINE LABEL PROPOSALS REALLY "DAMAGE THE SOUL OF FRANCE"?
What to make of the 60 or so high-end wine producers who wrote to Le Figaro this month with characteristic hyperbole to urge the French Government to stop “damaging the soul of France” via proposed new compulsory health warnings on wine?
The workers of France are not known for taking any perceived threats to their livelihoods lying down. From the almost weekly air traffic controller and train strikes to taxi drivers demonstrating against Uber by burning tyres and the regular dumping of manure on the steps of some or other food manufacturing plant, there is nothing subtle about the protests.
Highly subsidized farmers almost single-handedly offer some glimmer of justification to wavering Brexiters and the most ardent Remainers. They disrupted the Tour de France this week by throwing hay bales onto the road in front of the peloton as it passed through Languedoc in response to the mere suggestion of a reduction in EU funding. If stunts are dramatic, then the language of protest is almost cataclysmic.
The wine producers’ letter was responding to proposals sent to the industry last month by the Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, to introduce two-centimetre-wide red tags on the front of wine bottle labels, which would warn in particular of the laws against underaged drinking and the recommendations around no alcohol consumption for pregnant women. A version of the latter already exists without any rules regarding size, shape or colour.
In the face of 25 per cent of French mums-to-be continuing to drink alcohol and France’s teenage binge drinking problem, you can see why the spectre of the nanny state has reared its head. However, once again, packaging appears to be a soft target: an easy option in the face of the required more profound, long-term mindset change – similar to drink-drive attitudes, for example.
You don’t have to be an aficionado or even merely a user of the wine label app Vivino to appreciate just how much of a role labelling plays in the wine purchasing decision-making process. For years, the French have withstood pressure from international competition and changing tastes to largely cling on to the traditional design of their wine labels — bar a relatively token response to contemporary New World wine labelling in the early 2000s.
The stakes are incredibly high. Since the slump in both domestic and export sales over a decade ago, the wine industry has bounced back. French wine and spirits sales were just under €13 billion (£11.5billion) last year, making it the second largest export sector (behind aerospace). A boom in sales to the US and China and the growth of rosé, in particular, have fuelled growth. But at home, changing tastes and a small 2017 harvest are causes for concern. The industry clearly believes that the new labeling plans will help shoot itself in the foot.
Except that producers from Petrus and Yquem to Pol Roger and Roederer used slightly more flowery language. The proposals would not just damage the soul of France, but turn wine into a “criminal product”: “We are the guardians of an exceptional heritage: French wine making,” they wrote. “Every day, by exporting our produce, we share with the world, novices and wine buffs alike, a part of the soul of France… Every day, our cellars, our domains and chateaus, our wine-making landscapes, welcome thousands of tourists come to discover this France, bosom of the art de vivre that is the envy of the world and where wine plays a leading role.”
The French government, they said, was now threatening this heritage and “spreading fear.”
“Are we going to have to, minister, send to France and the whole world our wines…with labels covered in lugubrious and deathly signs for the image or our produce?” asked the letter.
Pierre-Henri Gaget, of Maison Louis Jadot, later told the Daily Telegraph the draft proposals had gone “beyond the pale:”
“We don’t carry the plague,” he said, warning next time there would be hundreds of chateaus lined up in protest.
Somewhat dramatically, the Le Figaro letter had asked whether the Government’s long-term aim was to ban all alcohol consumption. It’s unlikely, given the scale of the industry: Some 3.5 billion bottles of wine were consumed in France in 2017, despite a long-term decline in domestic consumption. Although 60 per cent of French production is still consumed domestically, that total amounted to 100 litres a year per inhabitant in 1975, and is now “only” 40 litres a year.
The more likely motivation is fear of lawsuits. Some 8,000 babies are born per year in France with mental or physical health problems that some have claimed are linked to mothers-to-be consuming alcohol. Warnings were first introduced on labels in 2007 after several women who had given birth to babies with foetal alcohol syndrome accused the government of not having done enough to warn them of the dangers.
Buzyn’s draconian proposals need to be seen in this legal context. They have resulted in her now having to fight to cling on to her job. It is unlikely that President Macron, a public advocate of lunch and dinner-time wine drinking, will be willing to take the potential political hit such measures would entail. As is so often the case, labelling would appear to be an easy, lazy target with questionable effectiveness, in the face of the much more challenging, expensive and difficult prospect of long-term education and cultural change.
MPR, 03 July 2018: AMA Adopts Policy to Cut Sugar Sweetened Drink Consumption
BBC News, 04 July 2018: First ads banned under new junk food rules
City A.M., 05 July 2018: Banning ads is no silver bullet for tackling childhood obesity
The Telegraph, 13 July 2018: Bigger health warnings on wine bottles will damage 'the soul of France' warn country's top chateaus
Bloomberg, 17 July 2018: Fight Obesity With Frank Food Labels
Female First, 20 July 2018: Wine bottle health warnings slammed by top chateaus (Ron quoted)
Campaign, 20 July 2018: IPA meets TfL to flag up problems in Mayor's Draft London Food Strategy
Euractiv, 25 July 2018: EU judges tell KitKat to take a break
Legal NewsLine, 25 July 2018: Bid to introduce cancer warnings on breakfast cereal packaging fails in California court
Good Morning Britain (YouTube), 02 August 2018: Should Junk Food Have Graphic Health Warning Labels to Help Tackle Obesity?