Creative Industries: Seven of the best for Britain

Music man with a mission
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The Independent Online
FALCON STUART is in the Ukraine with a mission to promote British pop music to the country's youth. In the process, he has forged a close working relationship with the British Ambassador, Roy Reeve, whom he calls an invaluable help.

If it sounds bizarre, Mr Stuart has the facts at his fingertips. A population of 53 million in a land mass the size of France makes Ukraine a highly attractive emerging market. And if conventional business can identify with those attractions, it would be foolish to let a market of this potential slip away to Russian, American or native Ukrainian talent.

British bands need to be in there, too, maintains Mr Stuart. At present, other than the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Ukrainians have developed a taste for Take That and the Spice Girls. But they don't know about bands such as Oasis and the Verve.

Mr Stuart has a lengthy pedigree in the music biz. He first entered it in the heady days of punk as manager of X-Ray Spex, the band fronted by teenage sensation Poly Styrene.

He believes that "each succeeding generation finds the soundtrack for their life". With that and a just go-out-and-do-it philosophy, he is hoping to turn on the largely untried market of Ukraine to Brit pop.

The fruits of these observations is the British Pop Project for Ukraine. Some initial funding from the Know How Fund - a grant body run by the Department for International Development to help British businesses working in countries from the former Soviet Union enter the global economy - got the project off the ground. Mr Stuart says it was the first grant by the fund to someone from the creative industries.

The first tangible effort will be a half-hour weekly slot on the New Channel TV station of British pop video promos in March. The audience, says Mr Stuart, can learn about new British bands. The programming will be free to begin with, but he hopes to get commercial sponsorship for it once a tried and tested format is up and running.

From there, he hopes to bring British bands over to tour Ukraine. "The project's aim is to create a strong presence for British popular music in Ukraine, and to provide assistance to the Ukrainians in developing their own pop music culture and business."

He has also lobbied the Government's Cultural Industries Task Force with his ideas about promoting British style overseas. In a written submission, he wants to see a British Creative Council set up to promote British creative industries around the globe.

He is scathing about the British Council, which has traditionally had the task of promoting our culture overseas. "It's locked into the concept of fine and high arts, whereas it's low culture that has the dynamic and the power," he says.

He can see the day when every British Embassy in an emerging country will boast its own pop culture officer, promoting the best of British pop, fashion and design. "Music is so accessible and it moves so fast, that it's always exciting." And the Government must play its part. "Pump priming projects like this is essential if they are ever going to become commercial reality."

Whatever happens, he says the task cannot and must not be left to the multinationals. "There are a lot of people burying their heads in the sand over this issue."

He believes multinational concerns have little commitment to purely British talent: "They source their talent from anywhere. Only the British can be committed to Britain."

His beliefs remain steeped in the ethics of punk from which he started in business. "Pop music should be intellectual, and it should also be fun," he states.

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