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The News can often feel like a list of everything that is wrong with the world, but by most metrics, things have never been better. Way out West looks at some sources of optimism in 2020, starting with Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries.

A lot of what we hear in the media is about how things can be improved. On Radio Four’s A Small Matter of Hope, journalist Fraser Nelson called this the paradox of progress, saying: ‘as things improve, people campaign for them to get better…so the headlines are pretty bad, but that conceals what is going right.’

He goes on to say: ‘In so many measures things are getting better. Child mortality is down…death and war is way down, deaths from malaria are way down.’ Poverty, illiteracy and death by natural disaster are also lower than ever before; while life expectancy is higher than before.

So, why then is good nearly always overshadowed by the bad?

A few years ago, director Richard Curtis offered up the analogy of the tortoise and the hare. “The hare is all the bad news, attracting all the attention, making us feel that things are getting worse and worse. But slowly, coming along, is all the scientific, technological, social progress’.

In Northern Ireland, one of these areas of progress are creative industries. For a long time, a creative career was considered impossible to pursue in Northern Ireland, but according to Lovebelfast.co.uk: ‘2019 proved to be another prosperous year for Northern Ireland Screen with many successes across film, TV drama, animation, games and factual-entertainment.

‘Throughout 2019 production continued to boost the local economy and provide employment and training opportunities for hundreds of local people.’

The outstanding example of this in recent times has been Game of Thrones, the impact of which is still being felt. But on 28 December 2019 Forbes named Ireland one of the most cinematic destinations in the world, thanks also to productions like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Derry Girls and the Fall.

Larry Lowe, who has been a music and media lecturer at South West College for over twenty years, says he can notice the change in recent times.

‘I think there are more careers available in the creative industries than ever before. Northern Ireland has got something about it at the moment. People from our towns and villages are working in big productions and showing what we’re capable of.

‘Less people are moving away. They’re getting their foundation degrees and degrees here and finding that they can work full time in Northern Ireland in the industries they want to be in. It’s a great place for us to be collectively and something we can be proud of.’

This optimism is backed up by support from organisations such as Arts Council NI, the main support for arts organisations and artists in Northern Ireland, which offers a broad range of funding opportunities.

Creative Industries ‘Increasingly important sectors of the economy.

Larry believes that this creative energy in Northern Ireland makes it a perfect time for young people to be studying media courses, and there is plenty to suggest that this will be a lasting trend, rather than a brief anomaly.

The Financial Times reports that the BBC intends to move two-thirds of jobs outside of London, and part of this transition has seen the cooperation double the proportion of its TV programmes produced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If there is a plan to move more production outside of London, there is a similar appetite from those in Northern Ireland to make the most of that plan. A primary objective of Northern Ireland Screen is ‘that Northern Ireland will have the strongest screen industry outside of London in the UK and Ireland within 10 years.’

Likewise, TV and Film are far from the only creative areas enjoying a surge of opportunities. NICHE, a Digital Creative Expo held in SWC Enniskillen last year, showcased how students could get into careers such as Games Design, which ten years ago would have been seen as fantasy careers, with very few realistic opportunities.

The event line-up included digital creative representatives from some of the most established studios in Europe including Ubisoft, Sumo Digital and DICE for a full day of workshops, keynotes and networking. At the event, Paul McGovern, Lecturer in Creative Media, SWC said: “Our creative industries are vitally important to the wider economy. Thanks to local success stories ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Fall’, we are experiencing a huge surge of interest from creative talent from around the world.

For anyone interested in Creative Industries in Northern Ireland, 2020 brings plenty of cause for optimism.

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