Creative Clusters and what they mean for you.

In the last month, two major UK Government initiatives have called for Creative Clusters to be supported and created across the UK. The first was the AHRC announcement of £80m  for creative clusters hosted by Universities. The second as part of the Independent Review of the Creative Industries 2017 by Pater Bazelgette, who called for £500m Creative Cluster fund support.

So what is a Creative Cluster? Why are they so important? How will they work for the vast majority of freelancers and micro-companies, who make up over 90% of the Creative Industries in the UK?

Using the existing information form NESTA, AHRC and the Independent Review this blog seeks to answer these essential questions, which will determine investment and support for creatives over the next five years, and beyond.

What is a Creative Cluster

A Creative Cluster is defined by NESTA as a geographic concentration of creative businesses and workers, often linked to similar value chains, that collaborate and compete with each other.

Clusters can often include other institutions linked to the value chain
such as higher education institutions (HEIs), cultural institutions, trade associations and government bodies which support the cluster in a number of ways.

Creative Clusters come in different sizes and configurations and can have a broad array of individual features which facilitate inter-organisational collaboration, including incubators, accelerators, shared hub space and studios.

All of which means that groups of companies, and to a lesser extent freelance individuals operate in a limited geographical space predominantly the larger cities. 47 of these were identified by NESTA in its ‘The Geography of Creativity in the UK‘ report in 2016.

Included in this list were the predictable London Bristol, Glasgow, Belfast to the less so  Leamington Spa, Medway, Warrington & Wigan and Exeter.

These locations will form the base for new investment and support over the next five years, based upon the stated aims of the current creative clusters programmes..

Why are they so important?

The Creative Industries are dominated by micro enterprise and freelancers, who do not have the resources for extensive research and development, to retain skilled staff in lean periods or offer support and skills training.  Therefore, the argument is that clusters of creatives supported via Hubs, information networks and shared skills are able to work more effectively.

Evidence gained form the Fuse programme suggest that creative firms, who work with or near to science and tech companies tend to be even more efficient and have a higher potential for growth.

The work of NESTA, and others, has led to a view that government support and increased investment in creative clusters will create more work and greater growth for the sector as a whole.  This is seen by many as essential as automation takes over large parts of the economy, and in an era where globally the creative sector is due to expand faster than any other.

How will they work for the vast majority of freelancers and micro-companies, who make up over 90% of the Creative Industries in the UK?

The AHRC Creative Cluster programme, is supported by a £39m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund grant as part of a projected total spend of £80m. It is designed to support six to eight existing clusters. The shortlisted proposals will be made know in early 2018, while the final group of successful Cluster Bids will be announced in July 2018.

For a summary of the programme’s area of Research and Development go here

The stated aim of the programme is to work with existing clusters. Therefore, any region or city which does not have identified cluster will not be part of this new growth and support strategy. Given that 47 clusters were identified by NESTA and 14 of these were seen to have a high concentration and high growth there is clearly substantial room for more support than this programme is able to supply.

The biggest challenge the Universities hosting these clusters face is that within the time frame most will not be able to include many micro-companies or freelancers in their initial proposals.  The net result of which is that the more established media and creative production companies,  who make up less than 10% of the sector, will end up setting the agenda. There is also the possibility that some cluster/s will end up being dominated on the industrial side by tech or advertising groups, who obviously make use of creatives, but are hardly likely to focus on their needs, as opposed to their own.

A framework for what the majority of the sector needs was highlighted in the Creative Industries Federation report ‘Creative Freelancers’ published in July 2017.  A summary of the specific needs across the freelancers, who are 47% of the sector, drawn from this report were :-

  • Access to Finance
  • Legal advice and support
  • Access to workspace.

The challenge for freelancers and micro-companies is to make contact with the initial short listed host Universities and insist on their specific needs being part of the final proposal.

Given these issues how will the £500m fund being called by Peter Bazelgette add to the effectiveness of creative clusters?  Obviously it will be able to reach out beyond the limited number possible in the AHRC programme.  The review argues for Creative Clusters to be designed from the bottom up.

……support for regional growth is prioritised through
an approach based on the City Deal model, supported by a £500 million Creative  Clusters Fund.”     Independent Review of the Creative Industries 2017

This overcomes the limitations of  a centralised approach, but is still aimed at already existing clusters, with all the limitations identified above.

This highlights one of the most important aspect of the creative industries. It is made up of freelancers and micro-companies, who operate across the UK, and often via a digital network. In the age of fast broadband, pdfs, skype,compression software, and digital rendering  to say nothing of Facebook, Instagram, the App Store and e-publishing is the idea of a physical based cluster really the only answer to creating growth, and supporting the vast majority of those who do, and will, work in the creative industries?

Creative Clusters have been identified. Some will be funded. More could  be funded to good effect. For them to really benefit the vast majority of  creatives they need to embrace support for the freelancers and micro-companies.  However, they are obviously on their own not enough to unlock the full potential of the creative pipeline.



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£80m University funding for Creatives Clusters

This blog provides a summary overview of the Art and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)’s new call for Universities and Companies in the Creative Industries to bid for support for a new government backed fund.

NOTE: You will need to act fast to be part of this program’s initial call briefings are taking place in October 2017 and expressions of interest at the end of this month.

The AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme is an £80 million-plus research and development investment to establish eight Research & Development Partnerships in existing creative clusters across the UK, along with a Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre to provide insight and independent analysis on the creative industries that will be of national and international significance.

For this blog we have selected the key points relevant to creative freelancers, micro companies and SME’s working in the creative sector.

To view the full  call for proposals please go to

To attend the briefing on this call for bids please attend one of the briefing sessions listed here

“Our investments will focus on early-stage, risky research and development where funding is often difficult to obtain. However, the innovations produced by our investment must have the potential to contribute to commercial outcomes.

The aim of the Programme is to establish and develop industry-focused R&D Partnerships linked to existing creative clusters, anchored in a lead Higher Education Institution(HEI).

For the purposes of this Programme, a ‘cluster’ is defined as either a geographical concentration of interconnected creative enterprises, organisations or institutions; or a sector-based collection of entities that operate in specific fields but do not necessarily fall within pre-existing recognised boundaries (e.g. government office regions).”                                                        AHRC Pre Call Announcement – Final Call

The Creative Cluster Programme

A maximum of eight Research and Development Partnerships (R&D Partnerships –

Each led by an HEI located anywhere in the UK. Creative R&D partnerships will bring together HEIs, creative industries businesses and other key stakeholders.

Funding £6-9m per partnership(incl. minimum of 33.3 per cent matched funding) with an AHRC contribution of £4-6m FEC for 54 months(October 2016-March 2023)

A Policy and Evidence Centre for the Creative Industries Sector – _led by and HEI or recognized independent Research Organisation, this will offer independent analysis on the creative industries for business and policy makers, identify research gaps, and co-ordinate data and analysis on the key challenges for the sector.

Funding Minimum £8m (incl. min 25% matched funding) with an AHRC contribution of £5m FEC for 57 months (July 2018 – March 2023)

NOTE: This Centre will no directly involve creative companies in its bid.

Areas for R&D Research within the Cluster Programme

  1. New Business Models and IP

Creative industry businesses rely not just on their ability to create new intellectual property but, critically, on their ability to extract value from it.

2. Collaboration

How do universities need to evolve to effect productive collaboration with the creative industries?


What needs to be done to align incubators, public and private investors, financial service providers and the research sector to provide innovative new products, services and experiences with the widest access to capital and investment to scale up and reach the market? How can specific product and service innovations opportunities provide evidence for and drive the need for change?

4. International Trade

How can regulators, the creative industries and the research base work together to ensure businesses continue to access the people, skills, supply and distribution chains they need to thrive and grow trade opportunities? How can specific products or services illustrate the potential for this?

5. Diversity & Equality

How can new innovation models and industry/research partnerships break down this pattern and deliver wider access and opportunity for the diverse creative talent of the UK?

6. Skills Shortage

A demand for new skills is being created by new technology-enabled modes of creativity, evolving markets for new kinds of products and changing ways of engaging audiences and consumers. How can partnerships between industry and universities lead the way in fusing the creative, digital, STEM and entrepreneurial skills of a new workforce equipped to span research and industry?

Key Points in Application/Bid

There needs to be a clear strategy based on evidence of the strengths of the creative cluster the University/ies will be working within; how these issues and opportunities impact (as opportunities or threats) on that geographical or sectoral grouping, and to provide the basis of how a strong industry/HEI research partnership will address this.

Successful proposals will convincingly reference the above opportunities and threats for the sector and may provide arguments based around other dynamics of change.

The bid will need to :-

  1. Focus on one or more specific challenge in the development of products, services and/or experiences. The challenge must be capable of being delivered by the cluster.
  2. The Partnerships will develop appropriate, optimal modes of working between business and the research base; offer innovative R&D opportunities to help shape a new type of industry-focused researcher; and develop the new highly skilled multidisciplinary workforce that the sector needs to compete on the global stage.
  3. The partnerships will need to demonstrate strong leadership from both the HE sector and industry, and will be led by an appropriately qualified individual with a demonstrable and relevant track record, based at an HEI eligible to hold Research Council funding
  4. HEI have to have HEIF allocation based upon an eternal income in excess of £250k.


Call document published Late September 2017
Statement of intent submission deadline Late October 2017
Stage 1 deadline December 2017
Stage 2 deadline April 2018
Stage 2 assessment and interviews June 2018
Announcement of successful Creative R&D Partnerships July 2018
Launch of the Creative R&D Partnerships October 2018



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Creative Freelancers Future in the UK.

The Creative Industries Federation this week published the results of the survey we asked BCre8ive members and supporters to fill in earlier this year.  You can download the full report HERE. The survey involved 700 freelancers from across the Creative Industries plus fifty major companies. In this blog we look at some of the key recommendations, which are now with the Government, and form part of the Creative Industries response to the UK Governments new Industrial Strategy.

While the government were asked at a policy level to  look at the following points

  1. Recognise the importance of the creative freelance workforce

2. Make self-employment, across all sectors, part of a Department for Business, Energy,    and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministerial brief

3. Introduce an immigration system that works for creative freelancers

4. Support a creative careers campaign – a UK-wide advertising campaign that inspires people to enter into the creative industries and dissolves misperceptions about careers within it, including freelance work

5. Ensure that the way government ranks higher education institutions does not disadvantage those institutions where students become freelancers instead of taking staff jobs after graduation.

The key areas identified for practical support were:-

  1. Support an independent UK-wide virtual hub – a ‘business booster network’ – which signposts existing business advice, local support services, and facilitates peer-to-peer mentoring
  2. Protect freelancers’ creative workspaces against development into residential spaces.
  3. Fund the accreditation of online courses aimed at freelancers
  4. The freelance workforce should be considered as part of HM Treasury’s review of patient capital (investment with no expectation of turning a quick profit)
  5. Pilot mechanisms to provide sustainable social security for freelancers
  6. Provide extra support during transition to Making Tax Digital and quarterly tax returns.

It will be the autumn before we know what the Government’s response will be. In the meantime, it is worth contacting your local MP about these key points in order for those formulating policy to fully appreciate the scale of what is required.

Much of the report reflects BCre8ive’s ‘Expanding the Creative Pipeline’  from the creation of a UK-wide virtual ‘hub’, referred to as a portal in the BCre8ive paper to the question of reviewing investment strategy for the Creative Industries.

The nature of freelance portfolio working has at last begun to be recognised. This pattern of employment involving several short term contracts as the main source of income, with often massively fluctuating levels of earning from year to year and periods of no-earning being common, or as part of a low income p/t employment economy, poses major problems for systems set up for people who are in full-time work.  Systems which range from tax and social security to mortgage providers and large educational establishments.

With at least 43% of the Creative Industries being freelance, and the Creative Industries being identified as one of the five pillars for the new government’s industrial strategy now is the time for change.

Adopting the results of the survey and addressing the key issues of diversity and the marketing and export of freelance content and the importance of micro-companies who make up another 50% of the creative industries is essential if we are to fulfill our full creative potential.


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What Value the Quality of the Screenplay?

This BCre8ive blog looks at the importance of the screenplay in the debate about creating independent films, and why it is so often overlooked.  The example of independent cinema discussed is the UK, but the issues equally apply in the US, European cinema and all countries where there is no strong commercial base for making and distributing independent films.

The bfi have set up an enquiry to look at the problem of distribution and exhibition, where there is a distinct problem, but is it really looking at the wrong end of the film-making processes?  However, first let us look at the current position of independent(indie) film making in the UK.

The State of UK Independent film.

In 2016 the market share for UK independent films was only 7%, its lowest level in five years and below the ten year average. This 7% market share for local films compares to 63% in Japan, 36% in France, 28% in Italy, 18% in Spain and 16.5% in Germany.

At the same time the number of domestic films produced in the UK has declined from 282 in 2012 to only 129 in 2016 (based on non-final numbers). The total independent film spend being £206m, the lowest in three years. This includes a drop from 119 in 2015 to 55 in 2016 of films budgeted under £500,000, which formed 40% of UK Indie production. (Note: these numbers may be revised upwards over the next two years.) Of these films under 50% secured theatrical distribution according to latest available research.

These statistics obviously open the questions of why the UK share is so small compared to other countries, why the UK spend and number of productions is in decline and what is the future of low budget/micro films if they cannot achieve distribution.

Past Efforts

From the 1990’s to mid 2000’s the focus of UK public policy, and film investment, was on increasing the number of UK productions, and lead to the number of production companies, growing from 1,745 in 1996 to 5,276 in 2004. This approach was criticised in 2002 by Alan Parker, UK film director, then chair of UK Film Council, who argued for an industry with an emphasis on distribution, skills and infrastructure to build a sustainable global, UK-based film industry.

Since then, there  has been a shift in government policy to tax-incentives;  a reduction in government support for Indie productions; a massive expansion in studio-based inward investment e.g. Star Wars etc; calls to expand the technical skills base, the arrival of online distribution e.g. Amazon and Netflix and a substantial decline in UK production companies. The later highlighted recently by Deloitte Metric Report on the Creative Industries, which showed that of the 13 UK-based film production and distribution companies in the top 100 creative companies all were foreign owned or foreign subsidiaries.

In addition, nothing was ever undertaken to address the simple fact that UK indie producers, nor the rest of the creative team, ever saw financial returns from their successes of a scale to to re-invest in future productions. A factor now compounded by the one-stop distribution deals being offered by the major US online distributors.

Current Efforts

Alan Parker’s three changes appear to being addressed to some degree. The infrastructure of the industry has been massively improved with far more up to date studio spaces, the creation of world leading post-production houses, and the modernisation of the exhibition chains. In addition, the government recently announced a new Skills Investment Fund directed at maintaining and improving the production skills with the aim of spending £32m over the coming years.

Finally, the last of the three elements distribution is now to be addressed as part of the new bfi enquiry chaired by Zygi Kamasa, CEO of Lionsgate UK & Europe it involves 12 industry representatives, including two bfi staff. An enquiry heavily weighed, judging from the make-up pf the team, towards distribution and exhibition issues in the UK.

However, does this new approach really address one of the key factors undermining all the efforts to date?

“To make a great film you need three things, the script, the script, the script”  Alfred Hitchcock

Failures in Independent Development

It is an old adage that you cannot make a great film from from a bad screenplay, but you can make a bad film from a good one. However, despite major investment in development in the early 2000’s the UK  Indie sector has failed to deliver enough financially successful films to ensure its place at the international table. The question is why, if the screenplay is the foundation of successful film making?

The key factors appear to be

  1. Attitudes – these have been identified in previous BCre8ive blogs – 4 Phrases which limit creativity  and how do we make content development work
  2. Development Skills –  almost everyone in the film business has now read a book on screenwriting or attended a seminar by McKee, or similar gurus of screenwriting. Unfortunately, such ‘training’ does not equip anyone to develop a great screenplay or help in the art of development.  The mono-myth which dominates such ‘training’ only applies to a limited number of films, and is counter productive in many genres e.g. romances and horror. In addition, it fails to address the ‘soft skills’ vital to a creative team – see Creative Collaborations – starting out  and 10 Steps to Creative Collaboration
  3. The ‘Auteur’ still rules – despite decades of this theory of film creation being debunked, and the UK’s own experience, the convenience of giving money to a writer/director rather than creating a great collaboration between a screenwriter and a director still dominates most Indie film making.
  4. Development Finance – this has always been a problem for people working outside a studio system. Here is the simplistic answer – vast amounts of money which a company can afford to waste in order to develop the few projects it needs.  The smart answer is develop great creative teams, with enough time and money to develop  a few great projects.
  5. Effective Investment – creating great screenplays take time, if there is not the money this is the writer’s investment in R&D, as such it needs to be rewarded with meaningful shares in the Intellectual Property rights, as it does in science and engineering projects.

The Foundations of a New Indie Cinema

Only if all the parts of the film-making process are addressed will we see success in the future. Addressing only distribution or exhibition and ignoring development will inevitably spell failure.


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What now for UK Education for Our Screens?

In the last month PACT have published a report highlighting the problems with UK independent film production. Last week Screen International published interviews with UK sales agents talking about a system that is broken. The number of UK independent films has declined steadily over the last few years, with the vast majority now budgeted under £500,000, and receiving no theatrical distribution, over 700 from 2003-13.

In addition, Stephen Garret, a leading UK TV producer, in a British Screen Advisory Council panel discussion stated that UK television was under attack, and likely to not be able to make shows like ‘Happy Valley’ in a few years time.

With the problems arising from Brexit, and the probable withdrawal of MEDIA funding for development and distribution, the future is not looking good for future UK graduates in screen content creation. The one area where there is still some hope is obviously games, but is this the only option for future screenwriters, directors, animators, producers, and camera people? After all games companies are generally far smaller than film or TV production teams, and have less need for freelance creatives as these are generally the founders of the company.

The Current Situation

At Cannes in 2017 the only Brit directors are the established actor Vanessa Redgrave, Welsh/Zambian Rungano Nyomi and Lynnne Ramsey (An Amazon Studio Film) with the first of the three stating she does not want to direct again. Now Cannes is not the only guide to UK feature success but it is Europe’s major International festival and for this to be the UK presence is some indication of how far we are from other countries. Germany for instance is involved in five films ‘In Competition’ with another eight screening out of Competition.

Film and TV production in the UK is booming with studio space from Pinewood to Titanic booked out, the resurrected ITV Studios in full production mode, and the BBC drama department commissioning new dramas every year. This means craft based skills and production graduates should do well in the foreseeable future.

However, the vast majority of these productions are dependent on US based finance, and projects tend to be only greenlit if US monies are available – even in documentaries. The question then arises as it has in the past, what if the US companies decide to take production elsewhere?

“I don’t think the old rules apply anymore”                Alison Thompson, formerly Focus Features International Chief, now co-founder of Cornerstone Films.

Many, if not the majority of, UK courses are still geared to the pattern of production and distribution/exhibition, which existed until ten years ago. So how do they adapt to the new situation? What should we be teaching the next generation of screen creative? How will UK voices reach global audiences if the theatrical route is closed off and TV is internationalised/Americanisation.

Future Industry Solutions

Inevitably some are arguing for more tax breaks specifically for UK independent productions, and there is in place, in principle if not in practice, an agreement that this should be treated as a UK producer’s equity in a production. This almost certainly would boost production, but would it create a long-term stable screen content sector, based upon Intellectual Property Rights owned in the UK? This s unlikely, without some major changes in the distribution and exhibition space, which is being steadily colonised by Netflixs and Amazon.

However, as has been stated in previous blogs the issue is not just one of production money. It is also about content development itself; support for the freelance and micro-companies which dominate the creative sector; and a new approach to direct marketing on the web. Changing the mode of distribution/exhibition, and thus creating replacement revenue streams does not affect the quality of work or guarantee an audience.

Educational Solutions.

If the new T-levels and apprenticeships work then the technical skills, which underpin studio productions and the large screen service sector should be in place for the foreseeable future. The bigger problem is what about the creation of new IP, new companies, and careers for creative graduates? In this context, the Tick system of industry approval for courses is probably due for an overhaul. However, a bigger issue is how to ensure the next generation of graduate creatives are able to compete in the global market?

In the area of content development we need to move away from the simple feature film narrative structures, and the ‘auteurist’, theories, which have dominated teaching over the last thirty years. Narrative theory has moved on, and more complex approaches are required for a very screen literate audience.

UK support for directors is now reduced to a handful of low budget options, which are potentially besieged by thousands of graduates. Directors have been commissioned on the basis of global video submissions by Machinima for online TV series for over eight years. The launch of Amazon Video Direct provides an another alternative to YouTube, but also all national broadcasters, who potentially will lose out in the race to make new drama series.

Producers in the UK face a diminishing area of operations as the ability to finance UK Indie films continues to decline. Graduates of production courses, including creative industry masters degrees, need to be able to not only build teams, work across multiple platforms, and use different funding models e.g. crowd funding etc. but also crucially be able to develop global content, as making a deal on something which does not work is not a business.

In the context of these needs there is clearly a need to re-think our future educational plans.


We are clearly living in very challenging times, and educational institutions are finding it difficult to adjust to the rapidly changing climate. Many staff learnt their skills in the old systems, and still yearn for a past age. Students still buy a myth of instant success, and point to music and YouTube stars as exemplars of their own ambition. There are lessons to be learnt and taught from both of these arenas and mobile games etc. This is our challenge.

The Creative Industries has grown as a sector faster than most other parts of the UK economy in the past seven years but this has largely been based upon some star players and ‘unicorn’ companies. The future needs to be based upon graduates who can create in the new landscape and be flexible to face the challenges ahead.



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Creatives’ Futures in the UK

Following our own ‘Expanding the Creative Piepline’ response to the government’s Industrial Strategy document this blog looks at the responses of two of the major Creative Industries representative’s responses to the consultation.  The Creative Industries Council CIC), is a government advisory board set up to officially provide advice to the government.  The Creative Industries Federation(CIF) is a membership organisation created to provide an independent voice for the creative industries.

Much of what they say is reflected in BCre8ive’s own submissions and it shows the degree to which there is some agreement on the key issues going forward. This is seen in the following statement from the Creative Industries Council

“Securing the talent pipeline

We want to establish a new partnership between industry and Government,local and national, to ensure that we are able to develop, attract and retain the skills and talent our sectors need now and for the future, covering every stage from school to technical pathways and apprenticeships, further and higher education and in-job training. In doing so we want
and need to afford greater access and opportunities to diverse talent across the UK.” CIC


The Questions of Access and Diversity.

“A creative careers campaign – to diversify recruitment and counteract inadequate and misleading advice on jobs available and the education and training needed for them.” CIF

“Provide job opportunities and career pathways for people from all backgrounds, linked to high quality education and training provision; and encourage entrepreneurship.” CIC

There is a shocking lack of diversity within some parts of the creative industries, and the need to address this is clearly paramount if the UK as a whole is to develop its talent, and support all those who could create new global creative works – from games to visual art, and from design to web series. Without an opening up of access to the full creative community then all the other changes further down the creative pipeline will be limited in their impact. However, the need  for creativity and collaboration in education is vital if this approach is to be sustained over the longer term.

Access to finance

“(The creation of ) A ‘business booster’ network – to provide access to high-quality advice for startups and small enterprises on exporting, intellectual property (IP) and access to finance.” CIF

“Catalysing Investment
The creative industries are dominated by small and micro businesses, and by project-based ways of working. Evidence suggests they can find it particularly difficult to secure the investment needed to grow and scale up.” CIC

Providing seed and investment money for freelancers and micro-companies (who combined make up over 90% of the creative industries) is critical to future success. This is difficult and seen to be very risky in some quarters, which is why it needs to be combined with effective content development support plus marketing advice and support. Funding and marketing poorly developed work is no solution, as the steady decline of the UK’s independent film sector has shown. Addressing the content development issue is critical to the success of a more effective financing strategy.

Creative Clusters

“Creative enterprise zones – modelled on the tax breaks and dedicated government support offered in existing enterprise zones but tailored for the creative industries.” CIF

“The Council will bring forward proposals for action, informed by and working with partners, to grow major, sustainable local creative ecosystems in targeted areas across the UK, in order to:- stimulate the local investment which will enable creative businesses to start,and then to scale up, securing gains in both productivity and critical mass (and) boost local economic growth through developing the wider supply chain and the local creative and cultural infrastructure” CIC

Creative clusters were identified in NESTA’s research, and by the work of the FUSE programme, supported by the AHRC. The issue they highlighted though was the dominance of London and the other major cities and the issues in future creative support is how do we reach beyond this metro-centric vision of creative activity in the UK.

For decades the access to training and finance has been concentrated in these big conurbations, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that this is where the creatives are. They  had no choice they either moved to London etc., or were ignored, and thus not supported. Creativity should not bounded by the number of coffee shops or the ability to network with those who have money, that a city provides. The web and the growth of fast broadband means we are now able to support and engage talent wherever it lives, and we need to ensure any new initiatives recognises this. Let us not forget that the tech nerd who blocked the latest world wide cyber attack lives in Ilfracombe.

The Bigger Picture

The Creative Industries have been recognised by all the major political parties in the UK, judging by the recent manifestos. However,  they all leave out much of the detail necessary to implement a significant expansion in the success of creatives in the UK. In addition there is the question of implementing such a major change.  Current structures are major city dominated, and top down in approach. Overall this will not serve the vast majority of freelances and micro-companies in the creative sector.

In order to support creative freelancers and micro companies we need to fully embrace a digital solution, and address the global markets for our work not just the UK.  This will not be easy, it will not be an overnight fix, and it will take effort form all creatives to up their game, but it is a massive opportunity. It is a potentially great future for creatives in the UK.



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Expanding the Creative Pipeline

There is real potential for the Creative industries to build an expanded creative
pipeline. A structure, which utilises existing technology, capitalises on intellectual
property, and grows the talent pipeline. It can achieve this by opening access to new talent, creating a new skills base, supporting freelancers and micro businesses, improving access to finance, and exploiting web distribution.

In 2014 UK Creative Industries exports formed 9% of UK total exports (£37.7bn),
worth £3.3bn. However, £3.3bn of a global market worth £1,106bn is only 0.3%.
By 2020 the global media market is predicted to reach £1,335b – will we still only
have 0.3% or possibly even less?

If we expand our creative pipeline from UK creatives to global audiences we can ensure the latter does not happen, and improve on our 0.3% share.

By creating a digital approach to the five pinch points in the Creative Pipeline it will be possible to unlock the enormous growth potential and productivity of the freelancers and micro-companies, which dominate the creative industries.

In addition, it will provide the opportunity not only for more unicorns to appear within the UK creative industries but also profits to be generated through greater UK
ownership of IP rights.

There is a digital opportunity to ensure this growth continues not only in employment, but market share, productivity, exports, and profitability by expanding the creative pipeline.

The problems, which stand in the way of this expansion can be summarised as
follows :-
1. The fractured nature of the Creative Industries – freelancers(43%)1 and micro
companies(94%)2 dominate.
2. A lack of inclusivity is hampering talent and content creation
3. Content development has been unsupported, as opposed to talent
4. Finance and production is metro-centric, yet creative clusters and individuals
exist across the UK
5. Access to finance is severely restricted leading to a lack of UK profits
6. Marketing support for small Indie companies and individuals is lacking, limiting
export potential

BCre8ive believes we can tackle these problems as part of the government’s New Industrial Strategy but also if people in the creative industries create a network which works for everyone.

Creating a digital, service-based, network, which unites all aspects of the creative
industries with global audiences, will involve all parts of the creative pipeline,
including existing and new providers.

This network will include the following new provisions to compliment existing
services and opportunities
1. A central information portal for creative freelancers and microcompanies.
2. New Content Development Courses
3. A new network of Content Development Mentors
4. An improved portfolio investment environment
5. Development finance increases
6. Co- and Match funding for creative startups
7. A marketing package and service for freelancers and micro-companies

FOR THE FULL VERSION OF  ‘Expanding the Creative Pipeline’ write to and we will send you a FREE copy.

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What is the future for Creatives in the UK?

The UK Government’s Green Paper sets out ten pillars on which a new industrial strategy will be built for the UK. The creative industries – everyone from architects and writers to web and game designers, from photographers to performers – has been identified as a key part of this new approach.  The question is how do creatives fit into the ten pillars, and how will they be best served by the new strategy.

Ten Pillars?

Some of the pillars are directed at sectors where the creative industries input is as a service e.g. infrastructure projects, improving scientific innovation, affordable energy and improving government procurement. There are other pillars where changes need to occur for the creative sector to benefit, in particular, the focus on STEM subjects in teaching and skills development. Without a focus on creative subjects in schools and universities the current rapid growth of the creative sector will be undermined, not enhanced, in years to come. In addition, the weakness in content development skills across the sector is an ‘Achilles Heel’ which will undermine the expansion, and potential global reach, of creative output in the UK.

The key to the new strategy working is based upon a number of other pillars working.

  1. Supporting Creative businesses to start and develop world class IP content.
  2. Cultivating the existing world leading creative sector to grow.
  3. Engaging with creative talents across the whole of the UK.
  4. Developing new institutions to meet the needs of the dominant creative workforce – freelancers, and companies  – micros.

So what are the key problems?

Each of the above four areas has distinctive problems which need to be addressed.

Creative Start Ups and Development.

Thousands of arts and media graduates enter the creative industries each year, alongside numerous freelance entrepreneurs . On this basis we should see a logarithmic growth in the creative sector. However, many freelancers leave the industry within 5-10 years with a subsequent loss of skills and talent.  Why? Lack of access is a key issue, as is a negative romanticised  culture,  along with the fragmented and unsupported nature of most creative start ups and freelancers.

In addition, much of the key skills to develop successful content which works for global audiences is missing in their training. This lack of skill is compounded by an absence of an effective mentoring scheme within the industry.  The latter is largely owing to the micro size of most companies who work from project to project with no capacity for extra staff or training.  See Nick  Park talking about the move from successful Oscar winning short films to feature films HERE

Cultivating The Creative Sector

All businesses need financial support at the early stages. Many argue that the arts and creative companies are cheap to set up, and so no investment is necessary to encourage start ups in this sector. This attitude has led to a massive number of failures, and an ongoing talent drain.

It also ignores the reality of much of the new digital creative environment. To have  a chance of a mobile game being a financial success means an investment in excess of £300,000.  While a feature film takes a minimum of £2.5m and a high end TV series over £1m per episode. Even a graphic novel needs in excess of £100.000. These are not enormous sums compared to a new drug development but they are hardly pocket-money.  The lack of portfolio investments across creative projects at this relatively small scale is a major inhibitor of growth.

Engaging with Talent Everywhere

The past has been dominated by the need for talent to move to London to be a success. The future must be based upon the recognition that talent can thrive everywhere in a digital age if given the right support. Two animators living on a Cumbrian fell farm are just as capable of delivering a world class children’s series or advertising content, as someone working in Soho, if they are digitally supported and connected to partners and collaborators.

Building these networks and support structures is a critical part of ensuring every talented person in the UK can have a reasonable chance at success in the creative sector.


Creating the Right Institutions – Networks.

The creative industry is dominated by freelancers – 43% according to Creative Skillset, in some disciplines it is much higher than this. Add to this the numerous micro companies and we are dealing with a very uncoordinated and fragmented sector. This inevitably presents a major problem for government and national organisations, who seek to talk to similar scale bodies as themselves, and lack the capacity to engage with literally tens of thousands of sole traders and micro companies.

However, every part of the creative sectors has its own small networks. Every part of the UK has universities with links to the current and future generations of creatives. With broadband promised for all areas it will be possible to link any individual creative to another creative or a team anywhere in the UK to develop new works.

For this to happen we need a new digital platform which goes beyond just advertising opportunities, and show cases, to actively encourage new projects, builds teams, and provides creative development and financial support at the early and key stages of the creative process.


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Freelancers Survey – Time for a Voice

The Creative Industries Federation has just issued a survey for freelancers.

Why should you, as a freelancer, fill it in – apart from the fact that it’ll only take 10-15 minutes?

  1. We freelancers are, according to Creative Skillset, 43% of the Creative industries workforce – yet we have no national voice.
  2. The government is in the middle of a consultation (Green Paper) for the UK’s new industrial strategy . One focus is the Creative Industries – we need to be heard if we are to benefit from this.
  3. Most of us work alone, with little effective financial, material, or training support – this will only change if we ask for more.

Last year the government estimated we were only 10% of the workforce until the above figures came out. This shows how little we are seen, or heard, by people who shape our taxes, our industry networks, our working conditions, and our training opportunities.

Fill in this survey – it does only take 1o-15 minutes, (once you have read it through) and start to create a noise, which will help shape our futures.  It is confidential, and all information given is protected under the Data Protection Act 1998.

To help you fill in the survey here are some notes on the key questions.

Qu. 4. If you are not a member of the Creative Industries Federation you can state that BCre8ive is the Federation member who sent you this survey.

Qu. 6. You can tick as many sectors as you wish.

Qu. 8-12. There is a ‘prefer not to say’ option if you do not want to reply to some potentially sensitive info e.g. age.

Qu. 16. Probably the most sensitive question – how much do you earn? Again you can state ‘prefer not to say’. However, the ranges are large and if we are to make the case for financial support, and improvements in tax etc. we need to know some general income figures, which we can put in front of people. So please, if you can, select the range which covers you.  It does not matter if it is £100 or £100,000 plus, what matters is we have an idea how much freelancers are actually earning.

Qu. 17. The proportion which you earn as self-employed. Many freelancers work under PAYE in one job, and then earn/work as freelancer as well. It is this we need to have a sense of. Part-time – often referred to as portfolio working, is normal for creative people, but  is largely hidden from industry statistics. This is your chance to reveal it.

Qu. 18. How many contracts per year?   We remember all the big contracts! The big issue here is all the small one-off payments you might receive for a lecture, a small job, appearing at an event, which often make up the bulk of your work. Please include in your total number every single one you can remember or can check on – or estimate an annual number based on past years’ activities.

Qu.20. Have you done unpaid work in the past year? This means unpaid creative work, which includes all pitch documents, presentations, instagram portfolios, spec writing; unpaid performances etc.

Qu. 21. Do you supplement your freelance income within the creative industries by working in other creative sectors – just list relevant sector e.g. visual arts, publishing.

Qu.22. Details of self employed/freelance work outside the creative industries need be no more than a job title e.g. part-time shop assistant; teacher; heating engineer; civil servant, care assistant.

Qu.23.  There are thousands of media and arts graduates a year in the UK . How much have the universities and colleges supported you since you graduated – assuming you did!

Qu.24. For most freelancers the answer to ‘training in the last year?’ will be none – please make sure you say this. It is an area for future investment.

Qu.25. This is all about access to the industry. How did you start, and how do you obtain new work?

Qu.26. Most of us use computers at home or on the move. The question is do we need special creative hubs like Regus, or Workspace buildings; or access to specialist equipment e.g. Adobe editing suite, or cheap venues for performance and rehearsals? Or in this digital age would an online freelance network, and digital support be more appropriate?

Qu.27 This is all about support where you are. If you are miles from a large town or  city how can you be supported in your work. If in a large town or city how can your situation be improved?

Qu.28. Protecting your IP rights has been a big issue for many decades. So think a little wider.  Could the traditional contracts you sign be changed for the better? Should your spec work be treated as an ‘investment’ and therefore valued in a share of profits or rights ownership?

Qu.29. Feel free to raise anything which you think can improve the lot of creatives.

Qu.30. Yes it is confidential so if you do want to talk about it, please let them know.

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UK Challenge Fund for the Creative Industries?

The Innovate and AHRC Challenge Fund for supporting innovation in the UK is currently being drawn up.

Here are the suggestions published in various workshops around the UK over the two weeks for why the Creatives Industries fit the Funds criteria. The challenge now for all freelancers and micro companies ie people working in firms/teams of less than 10 people is to have voice in pushing for funds to support their work.

Please feel free to use the following statistics and criteria in contacting Innovate and AHRC – or add your own.

For ideas on what the fund might pay for to help you create and market your work see the recent BCre8ive blog New Creative Industry Strategy?

Global Market:

  • Global media market – $2Trillion
  • AR/VR global market forecast to be $150bn by 2020
  • Advertising – $468bn
  • Games – $99bn
  • Film (box office only) $48bn
  • Design – currently worth £71bn to UK

UK Capability:

  • The UK’s creative economy provides jobs for 2.9 million people and accounts for around 10% of the whole economy
  • Acknowledged world-class service, content and production base (e.g. ILM, Framestore, BBC, WPP, Heatherwick Stds)
  • Employment continues to grow faster than the workforce as a whole growing by 5.1% between 2104-2015 compared to 2% for the rest of the workforce.
  • The sector is particularly strong at exporting, with services exported by the UK creative industries in 2014 representing 9% of all UK exports.
  • Nearly 50% of Creative Exports are in Digital services underpinned by the UK Digital Economy which represents around 10% of GDP.

Timeliness for Impact:

  • AR/VR on brink of mass adoption – no dominant platform or service design, hence opportunities for UK
  • Synergies with games and film sectors as they race to develop new technologies for converging media
  • Significant R&D tax credit and corporation tax incentives to attract investment in R&D
  • GDPR (EU personal data regulation) will drive need for innovation in fields such as (online) advertising
  • Increasing need for strong regionally-based industries to enhance value through creative inputs (e.g. VR, UX and content for robotics, Automotive and health sectors)


  • Make up of creative sector means most innovative forms are small and need capacity building to undertake R&D
  • Weak inter-sector supply chain links means need for collaborative R&D incentives and networks (e.g. Immerse UK)
  • Disproportionate concentration of creative in London & SE
  • No current dominant designs in areas such as AR/VR require seed public investment
  • Ability to attract talent and large businesses from around the world on world-beating challenges – e.g. USA, China inward investment opportunity.
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