Culture Secretary speech at GREAT FUTURES

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer delivers keynote speech at the GREAT Futures event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

 The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP

Good morning everyone and thank you for that kind introduction, Louise.

It’s a pleasure to be here and to be part of this brilliant day.

I must start by thanking the patron for GREAT, His Excellency Majed AlQassabi, and all of the teams behind this excellently crafted event.

Yours is a Kingdom that is on the move and we, as a Government and as a country, want to move with you.

We recognise that few places on earth have changed more in the past decade.

Our two countries have always found common ground in spheres such as international development and security cooperation, but it is clear today - in 2024 - that there are huge new opportunities available to us both.

Days like this really underscore the immense cultural and creative ambitions of the Kingdom in its Vision 2030. 

That Vision is bold, it is ambitious and I am here today because I believe Britain can play a role in that story.

Because, like Saudi Arabia, we too are unapologetically ambitious in capitalising on our strengths to grow our economy and improve lives for people in Britain and around the world.

But before I speak to the huge opportunities for collaboration, I want to touch on the exceptional job the Kingdom has done over the past decade of growing and expanding the Saudi Creative Industries.

For years, other Arab capitals - like Cairo, Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad - stood out as the Arab cultural beacons where blockbuster movies were made, chart-topping songs were recorded and books that got intellectuals talking hit the shelves.

But today, in 2024, Riyadh has started to seize that mantle and the Kingdom is now at the forefront of shaping the region’s culture.

Yours is a country of 29 million people, two thirds of which are under 30, and it is clear you recognise the immense power that culture, sport and tourism have to drive up people’s quality of life at home, and to bolster soft power abroad.

The Ministry for Tourism, Ministry for Culture and Ministry for Sport, as well as the General Entertainment Authority, have combined to broaden and diversify your cultural offering.

To draw in some of the biggest names in sports like boxing, golf and football to play in your leagues and entertain millions, to expand and grow your sectors from film and TV to tourism, design and music, and to create countless new opportunities with events from Riyadh Design Week and Riyadh Soundstorm to Comic Book Festivals and the Red Sea International Film Festival.

And I know the level of ambition is sky high, backing 100 new films, commissioning 26 new museums, increasing the contribution of the Creative Industries GDP to 3%, generating $20 billion in revenue and creating over 100,000 jobs - and all by 2030.

We are already seeing the transformation in regions like AlUla - an area synonymous with heritage, as the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

And a place awash with sand dunes, desert oases and ancient ruins that date as far back as the Neolithic period of the Stone Age - become centrepieces of your tourism and creative industries, with major investments to build state-of-the-art film, music and recording facilities.

And those investments are already paying off, with the big Gerard Butler film Kandahar becoming the first big budget US production to be shot solely in Saudi Arabia, and mainly in AlUla.

That film is a sign of what is to come. The starting gun for what is certain to be a huge number of films and TV shot, directed, produced and edited in Saudi Arabia in the coming years.

And this is all part of why I believe the Creative Industries are among the most exciting potential areas for further and deeper collaboration between our two great countries.

As UK Culture Secretary, Sport, Media and Tourism Secretary, I could not be prouder of our vibrant Creative Industries.

As far back as Shakespeare, culture has always been one of the defining parts of the British national character.

But today our great authors, our great playwrights, our great musicians and designers are not just enriching lives, they are driving our economy.

To put things into perspective, the GVA of our Creative Industries was £124.6bn in 2022 alone.

These Industries account for 2.4 million jobs in Britain and they grew faster than our whole economy between 2021 and 2022.

And obviously much of the credit for that phenomenal growth belongs to the extraordinary talent we have at our disposal.

But it is also the case that we, as a Government, have consistently recognised the power of these industries and sought to maximise its true potential, at every turn.

Tax reliefs.

Incentives to invest.

Support through the pandemic.

Support to bounce back from the pandemic.

And most recently a dedicated blueprint - our Creative Industries Vision - designed to realise the untapped potential of sectors like video games, VFX and grassroots music.

We have successfully created an environment where competition and talent is thriving.

And that’s why, from music and design to TV and film, we are now home to some of the most dynamic creative businesses in the world.

Today in 2024 companies are choosing to come and invest in our clusters of excellence, like video games in Leamington Spa, TV in Leeds and Birmingham, VFX in London.

And big studios want to establish and grow their footprint in the UK, with Disney, Netflix, Amazon and Apple making landmark investments into studios like Pinewood in Hertfordshire and Shinfield in Berkshire.

To put things in perspective, analysis by The Times last year showed within two years there will be more studio facilities and square footage of studio space in the UK than the whole of Los Angeles.

And a major factor in why companies are making those inward investments, is because they recognise the expertise and the skills we now have at our disposal, across the creative ecosystem.

Underneath the big name productions like Bond and Barbie, or the superstar musicians like Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa, we have production teams who know how to scale up, to deliver first class productions and events and to take cottage industries and turn them into world-beaters.

To my mind, few countries are better placed than Britain to help support the Kingdom as you look to transform your economy. 

Building out and developing your Creative Industries, cementing your status as a major player in sports and expanding your reputation as a tourist destination.

And I know that these kinds of collaborations are already off the ground in some areas, like Esports - with British Esports and the Saudi Esports Federation committing last year to greater cooperation on education and cultural exchange.

And are seeing the beginnings of cultural and creative exchange, with the world renowned British composer and impresario, Andrew Lloyd Webber, recently taking Phantom of the Opera in Riyadh.

And a fortnight ago the British Council deepened its relationship with the Saudi Cinema Association at the 10th edition of the Saudi Festival - with the British Council showcasing a curated selection of UK short films and using the festival to give a platform for filmmakers to engage with Saudi Arabia audiences and forge meaningful connections.

And we have seen new connections between our museums, with the Science Museum Group and the Saudi Ministry of Culture Executive Programme having signed an agreement on a Museums Hub.

And with SOAS University launching a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies, sponsored by the Museums Commission, and jointly awarded by SOAS and Effat University.

And most significantly of all, in tourism.

In 2022, the UK welcomed over 200,000 visitors from the Kingdom and Visit Britain’s latest forecast predicts 240,000 visits from Saudi Arabia this year.

And this is another area where you are investing in the fundamentals - building up the tourism infrastructure needed to make Saudi Arabia a magnet for visitors. Doing what is needed to increase the number of annual travellers to the Kingdom from 14 million to 60 million in the next five years.

This is an area where Britain has deep expertise, for example, in vocational training, and I know that members of our delegation will be well placed to speak to this during some of the planned sessions.

Yours is a Kingdom with a huge amount of heritage and I have no doubt that countless people will look to take the chance to come and see and experience that heritage.

To support you in that journey, I can confirm that Historic England and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture are  actively exploring a new partnership to cooperate in the field of cultural heritage.

This exciting new programme of cooperation will bring benefits to both of our countries and could involve some of our leading heritage experts sharing knowledge and skills to support the preservation of cultural landmarks in the Kingdom.

All of this is why events and programmes like Futures are so important.

Bringing together Government and businesses with a common goal - to find new areas for partnerships and mutually beneficial opportunities to grow our relationship.

As Government Ministers and as senior leaders of industries, it is in our gift to welcome in a new era of investment, partnership and growth between our two countries.

I want to finish by paying tribute to our hosts Saudi Arabia who are among our oldest friends in this region.

We admire your young and vibrant people. We value your spirit of enterprise and ambition.

So I’d like to thank you all, once again, for being here and for being part of the Futures programme.

By being part of what we are doing here this week, each of you will be writing your own contribution to a new chapter in British-Saudi relations.

One defined by security and prosperity.

By cooperation and collaboration.

By the exchange of knowledge, ideas and investment.

From: Department for Culture, Media and Sport and The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP