Will Turner sits at the heart of Britain's creative industries and, right now, he is as fearful for their futures as he is proud of their achievements. A former BSkyB executive, who now runs the Covent Garden-based media hub that is The Hospital Club, he is recently returned from Cannes where he met with the heads of four of the seven major Hollywood studios. And it is imperative, Turner, 41, believes, that Britain spells out its credentials as an international centre of creative work before its position is usurped.
"There's no question that as a country we are good at making stuff, good at creating stuff," he says. "We have a problem in that if we don't capitalise on that quickly, we will begin to lose talent abroad or be eclipsed by other countries. But creating a creative capacity in a society doesn't happen overnight so I think we've got a terrific opportunity to market the Creative Britain brand internationally and grow global market share for our domestic creative people."
The Hospital 100, the annual list of the most influential individuals – both established and emerging – in the 10 key sectors of Britain's creative industries, attempts to underline why this country is such a strong performer in media and the arts. Voting on The Hospital 100 shortlist begins today (see box to the right).
The message Turner received from the Hollywood studio chiefs was a worrying one. "It's all about piracy," he says. "People should be aware of how much bigger this problem is going to get over the coming months and years.
Because there's a whole generation of people now who expect their content for free and the hardware and access to that hardware by which you can file share is becoming ever more accessible and within two years you will have, in fairly wide circulation, a computer that is a television set."
In spite of this, he remains optimistic. "Just under eight per cent of our GDP is driven by the creative industries. You've got a country that needs to dig itself out of a recession and doesn't have the usual engine that it would rely upon to do that, which is the financial sector," he says. "Suddenly, the creative industries look like a potent and exciting resource to help drive us out of recession. I think that's why the creative industries will be an increasingly important story in the run up to the election and into the next government."
One of the things that excites him most about the response to the current economic pressures is the increasing co-operation between media businesses, often operating in different sectors. "The creative industries have finally figured out that they need to begin to act together. It isn't easy because while we aggregate these businesses under the heading "the creative industries", a film-maker and a book publisher are different cultures and very different business models but they all need to talk to one another to work out what the next paradigm will look like and ensure that this positive trend that more people are watching and consuming media is monetised in the mid to long term."
After running Sky Pictures, Turner became BSkyB's head of content strategy before joining The Hospital Group as chief executive in 2005, taking over a venture that was the original idea of the musician Dave Stewart, who wanted to transform a former Victorian medical establishment into a creative melting pot in the heart of London. The club is owned by Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen, who runs it through his private equity firm Vulcan Inc.
The Hospital 100 is intended to put a spotlight on the achievements of some of Britain's influential but lesser-known talents. "You will always hear about the head of the advertising agency or the guy with the biggest profile but within that agency the people know there's someone of exceptional talent who's really the driving force," says Turner. "I think that's true across the creative industries."
He is confident that, in spite of the downturn, young British talent is not yet being lost abroad. "The junior practitioners are not working to the same commercial mandates as they were before and that's throwing up some interesting stuff," he says. "Before there were technology barriers [to career progression] but you can now mash up a pop video or make a short film really cheaply, compared to what it used to cost. There's a democratisation there."
He does not claim to have the answer to piracy and the culture of obtaining intellectual property for free, but says there is a need for re-education. "I do believe customers need to be encouraged to acknowledge that there's a value to the content they're consuming. There will be a huge number of new business models that will emerge from these challenges but prosecuting the customer legally is not the answer."
The creative industries, he points out, encompass everything from a play being performed above The Red Lion in the High Street to a design team working in a Japanese-owned car factory. And everyone in Britain stands to benefit from their collective success.
"There is a halo-effect that is worth billions to our economy. It's the halo effect of our obvious creativity in theatre, television, film, heritage Britain," he says. "What we and The Independent are celebrating with The Hospital 100 is the exceptional quality of creativity in this country."
Vote for the Hospital Club 100
The Hospital Club 100, in association with The Independent, is a search for the most influential emerging and established talent in the creative and media industries. Unlike other rankings, voting is open to anyone in those industries, so it's a chance to have your say. The emphasis is on current contribution and importance, not the size of someone's celebrity status, profile or bank balance. Vote in any one of 10 different categories. Go to thehospitalclub.com to register your nominations.Reuse content