EU presidency fuels push for jobs

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The Independent Online
The Government is to take advantage of its presidency of the European Union to push job creation in the cultural industries where Britain is strong, Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, announced yesterday.

Britain will stage three major conferences and more than 100 events in the next six months as its cultural contribution to its EU presidency.

The Government wants to encourage the television, music, radio and Internet industries across Europe to create jobs, Mr Smith said.

"We are seeing a flourishing of talent and creativity in this country, particularly in the audio-visual industry. The jobs of the future are going to come increasingly from the cultural sector in its widest sense. We intend to explore with our European partners how this can be achieved and encouraged."

Mr Smith's statement was reinforced yesterday by the first repayment of part of a lottery grant to a British film. Shooting Fish, the hit British comedy starring Kate Beckinsale, has already taken pounds 4m at the British box office. But it is successful distribution sales around the world that have allowed producers Winchester Films to begin paying back the pounds 980,000 lottery grant, according to Gary Smith, who heads the studio.

The comedy was among the first batch of productions to receive a lottery boost from the Arts Council, which requires partnership funding of at least 25 per cent and a return on any profits.

The first conference under Mr Smith's plans will be a meeting in March of Europe's culture ministers at Shrigley Hall, near Macclesfield, to discuss the reviews of audio- visual policies.

Media company leaders and professionals will meet in Birmingham in April to discuss the challenges of the digital age, and arts professionals will meet at the South Bank in London in May to discuss culture, creativity and employment. The 100 events around the country include an exhibition of Holbein in London, one dedicated to the Nazi victim Anne Frank in York, and a lecture on the Spanish Armada in Plymouth.

Mr Smith conceded that many had been arranged before the UK presidency, and linked in, but he said: "If we had been going to create an all-singing, all-dancing festival, we would have had to launch long before the May 1 this year, and before [the general election on] May 1 we were not in a position to do so."

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