Our Culture Minister should take notes

By Martin Bright, March 1, 2012

What will be the cultural legacy of the Cameron government? Thus far it has been difficult to identify a vision beyond the idealistic hope that private philanthropy will step in as state subsidy shrivels.

Next week, when Culture Minister Ed Vaizey visits Israel to draw inspiration from the country's hi-tech success stories, he will find there is much the UK can learn. His itinerary will take him, for example, to the new-media hub set up by Erel Margolit, founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and one of the heroes of the bestselling business book Start-Up Nation.

I visited this extraordinary place 18 months ago while covering the launch of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, and it's impossible not to be impressed. More than 300, mostly young, animators, software engineers and mobile app designers, backed by venture capital from JVP, work under the same roof in the Art Deco building that once housed the mandate-era Mint.

But what is really ingenious is the way JVP uses its profits to fund the arts and community projects. An avant-garde performing arts centre, The Lab, based in an old railway shed, has grown out of this virtuous circle of hi-tech finance, as has Bakehila, a project to provide educational projects for some of Jerusalem's poorest families. This is a hyper-charged model of philanthropy where the hard-end creative industries feed into culture and social enterprise. It's hard to imagine anything like this happening in the UK, where large chunks of the arts and charitable sectors have been dependent on grants from central or local government.

While Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been somewhat distracted by the Olympics and his personal obsession with ultra-local news TV, it has been left to Ed Vaizey to persuade the creative industries that they have a part to play in bringing the UK back to growth. If Mr Vaizey is prepared to listen while he is in Israel next week, he could return with nothing less than a vision for the future of creative Britain.

Last updated: 3:12pm, March 1 2012