JESSIE MCcCOMB, SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY’S CULTURE OFFICER

May 7, 2015

ACPCultures+ interviewed Jessie McComb, SPC's cultural officer, to talk about the Programme’s funded project “Enhancing the Pacific Cultural Industries: Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands”

 

What are the main characteristics of the cultural industries in the Pacific Islands?

All the Pacific Island countries, from the largest to the smallest, have significant cultural assets: traditional knowledge, skills and creative talents. They can also point to a range of cultural goods and services that are already produced. New forms of expressions - design, fashion, music - are emerging, based on new technologies. Moreover, since a major existing and potential market for cultural output is tourism, it is reassuring that most of the countries in the region have reasonably well-developed tourism capacities with some degree of connection into the expanding international market.

Several music and dance festivals or cultural events are attracting regional and international audiences, and some artists from Pacific countries are establishing a presence on the international arena. In addition to tourism, the Pacific diaspora forms a strong consumer market for cultural goods and services produced in the region. We can see that the Pacific Islands are well placed to use their cultural industries as economic development factor.

What are the main weaknesses and obstacles to the development of the cultural industries?

I would say that the main obstacle is represented by the inadequacy of the infrastructure, beside the weak institutional capacities needed to support the industry development. The marketing of cultural goods and services is not performant and does not have connection with the export sector. The companies working in cultural industries are micro or small-to-medium enterprises, characterised by lack of entrepreneurialism and a low rate of risk. The cultural associations lack of structure and managerial capacities.

Are the Governments supporting the cultural industries?

The Government engagement varies across the different countries, but in general terms the cultural policy is not a priority.

In which way your project “Enhancing the Pacific Cultural Industries: Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands” is improving the situation?

In many ways. First of all we improved the coordination and dialogue between arts/culture associations and the public sector departments and development agencies.

Secondly, we trained cultural operators in key strategic areas: development of financial services, market promotion, copyright protection and enforcement. We are offering strategic industry coaching to associations, cultural organisations and individual artists. We improved the entrepreneurship abilities of many micro and small companies.

There are plenty of examples. By providing support and coaching, the Fashion Council of Fiji has been able to receive corporate sponsorships and develop a very useful informational platform.

The Samoa Art Council has completely redefined its mission, organigram and management board, being now able to provide strong assistance to its members.

The Western Solomon Art Council has been coached to rewrite their statutes, improving significantly the market potential of their members and increasing the links with the tourism sector.

Another important result has been the raise of interest of the national Governments towards the cultural and creative sectors, to encourage the expansion of the cultural industries within their own economies. The different Governments know better how to enforce the laws on copyright protection and piracy fight.

Finally, the project improved dramatically regional cooperation and knowledge, which is an essential avenue for affirming the role of the cultural industries in the economic and social development of the Pacific Islands.

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