January 24, 2021

Cool Britannia symbolised hope – but all it delivered was a culture of inequality

It’s 20 years since Tony Blair reshaped Britain’s economy around the arts, yet the project’s legacy is an exploitative sector dominated by people from an astonishingly small demographic pool

It was the most high-profile moment of New Labour’s “Cool Britannia” campaign: a celebration of a modern, outward-facing Britain with a new kind of industry, and a new kind of workforce.

“We saw it as a chance to redefine what the UK’s economic future would be about,” recalls John Newbigin, then a government special advisor on culture, of Tony Blair’s garish Downing Street reception for the great and good of the UK’s creative industries, held 20 years ago this month. “Not just factories or pinstriped bankers, but creative entrepreneurs drawn from across society.”

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