Spotlight on the South West
South by South West
For starters, the South West has over 100 specialist networks and programmes to support growth and prosperity of the region’s media industry. They include South West Screen, Bristol Media, Theatre Bristol, Arts Council (SW) and Creative Enterprise Gateway.
The seaside town of Bournemouth is home to the UK’s top animation school, Bournemouth University and The Arts Institute of Bournemouth’s Enterprise Pavilion, which provides business incubation and business support services.
The area also houses the BBC’s Natural History Unit, which filmed the much-lauded HD scenes in Planet Earth, and will be the base for Hewlett Packard’s Pervasive Media College, which the South West RDA says “will break new ground and lead the way in developing new technologies.”
The South West RDA also says the region offers the “freedom to innovate.” It points to The Watershed, which is Britain’s first dedicated media centre as a case in point. It provides an accessible environment of technology, culture and expertise for creative businesses.
The RDA invested £6.4million to help grow creative talent in Bristol, enabling Watershed to buy its home and from the rent, set up a fund to invest in the sector.
Also a source of innovation, according to the RDA, is the iShed Communities Interest Company. This is a wholly owned subsidiary of Watershed Arts Trust that aims to build a cultural brokerage which connects organisations, knowledge and research through collaborations across the media, arts and technology sectors.
The numerous groups such as South West Screen and Bristol Media Group also enable the best creative minds in the region to come together and generate new ideas.
Just as Banksy’s scrawls are now worth a fortune and Damien Hirst can charge a mint for his contemporary artwork, creative industries in the South West rake in the cash and are major contributors to the UK economy.
In fact, creative industries in the South West make up almost 10 per cent (£1bn) of the UK’s £11.4bn creative exports (source: DCMS).
The creative and digital media sector in the region is growing more rapidly than anywhere else in the UK. 15 per cent of jobs in the region are in the creative and digital content industries.
Given the South West’s impact on popular culture and the facilities it houses, it’s easy to see why a number of advertising, design and media agencies, as well as production companies, choose to set up camp in the region.
Home to the UK’s oldest carnival, Bridgewater, the Cheltenham Literature Festival and Glastonbury and WOMAD music festivals, there’s plenty of scope in the region to unwind out of work.
And if it’s not the art or music that inspires creatives to make it their home, it could be the scenery.
Bright Blue Day chairman Jonathan Clark once told The Drum that if any city-dwelling creative folk caught sight of his agency’s picturesque Dorset seafront base it would make them “green around the gills” with envy. The landscape is so idyllic in fact, that it is said to have largely informed Thomas Hardy’s creation of the fictional county Wessex in his classic novels.
Acting as the base for as many as 10,000 creative businesses, and home to more creative artists than any other region outside of London, it’s little wonder the south west has such a renowned creative reputation.