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Creativity is great

Jun 24,2014 - Last updated at Jun 24,2014

Is creativity something you are born with or something you can learn?

It is probably a bit of both nature and nurture: natural talent and inspirational education.

For example, a musician cannot improvise until he or she has learnt to master an instrument.

The theme of creativity was prominent at a party we held last week to celebrate what is “great” about Britain. We highlighted many themes about modern Britain: education, business, film, etc. 

As is often the case, it was the film industry that stole the show.

Gareth Ellis-Unwin, the producer of the film “The King’s Speech”, which portrayed the struggles of King George VI to overcome his stammer, displayed the Oscar he won in 2010 for the Best Picture.

He spoke about the UK’s creative industries and their contribution to growth.

The sector covering TV, film, art, design and architecture employs 1.3 million people in the UK and produces exports worth £17 billion each year.

For example, the film “The King’s Speech” employed over 400 crew and cost £9 million to make. It has already earned £250 million at the box office and, once DVD, Internet and TV receipts are factored in, it looks set to earn in excess of $1 billion.

Gareth attributed this success to two key factors: a tax credit system that offers the film industry in the UK significant financial advantages and a competent workforce with specialised skills to support quality productions. 

Other aspects of the UK’s creativity were also on show at the function: innovative fashion from Stella McCartney, avant-garde architecture such as the new Queen Alia International Airport terminal in Amman, designed by Norman Foster, and the fact that eight out of eleven Formula 1 racing car teams are based in the UK, including Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren.

“Motorsport Valley” near Oxford employs 41,000 people and earns £9 billion a year, mostly in exports.

That creativity is available for sharing. Indeed, Gareth is bringing his skills to Jordan to make a new film, Kajaki this summer. Not only will the film be shot in Jordan, he will also share his experience of the dynamic environment within which the film industry in the UK is thriving. And working with the Royal Film Commission, he will run master classes during the summer to nurture local creative talent.

Creative talent is already on show in Jordan. In May I attended the premiere of Postman Pat - The Movie, a major film production using top stars to do the voices. That film was produced in Jordan by Amman-based company Rubicon.

The digital sector in Jordan also has huge potential as people in the Middle East look for Arabic language apps, fuelling the growth of Arabic as an Internet language. Companies in the UK are looking for partners in Jordan to fuel this growth.

Other institutions are involved in valuable new initiatives to promote creativity in Jordan. Oasis500 recently launched a Creative Industries Fund and the EU has a Creative Jordan project to support people and institutions that want to develop capacity for innovation.

Producing the intellectual horsepower to fuel creativity requires an education system that encourages young people to question received wisdom and develop capacity for critical thinking.

Memorising and regurgitating facts in an unthinking way is the best way to strangle creativity; it is how you use that information that counts.

In today’s highly competitive world, all countries have to play to their strengths.

Entrepreneurship and private sector enterprise will be the sources of job growth and future prosperity by bringing new ideas to market.

Staying ahead of the game requires support for bright people with good ideas. 

A Chinese proverb states: “The loftiest towers rise from deep foundations.”

Digging those foundations means encouraging creativity in young people from an early age.

The writer is British ambassador to Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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