Birmingham focus: The IPA, Creative Skillset, Business Birmingham, Alive and Bpi Agency discuss the mood in the region's creative industries

By The Drum Team | Staff Writer



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July 28, 2014 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum's Blackwell's Britain series of regional features, we caught up with a cross-section of local stakeholders in Birmingham to highlight the issues facing the creative community in the area.

Asos is using the area's Custard Factory as a major base for its digital activities, and the BBC has announced plans to invest in the city.

But what's the mood like in the region?

A cross-section of industry experts from the area shared their thoughts with The Drum.

Tom Daplyn, managing director, Alive

I think that generally the outlook for the country is more positive, but in Birmingham specifically, there’s been a noticeable uplift in enterprise.

Within the last ten months we’ve seen our building in the Jewellery Quarter fill its offices with companies that have either just started out, or moved to facilitate growth.

It’s great to see new businesses popping up in the townvcentre and we’ve got some lovely new neighbours too.

Janet Hull, director of marketing, IPA

With jobs in the creative sector on the up in the region, there’s a new found optimism and desire to pull together to shout louder about the strength of the sector and its contribution to the local economy.

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Wouter Schuitemaker, investment director, Business Birmingham

Birmingham’s tech scene is thriving.

With 6,000 tech firms employing 40,000 people, Greater Birmingham already has one of the country’s best performing digital clusters and is a leading centre for a wide range of digital media sectors.

The area is gaining particular recognition as a hotbed of entrepreneurial start-ups in e-commerce, film and animation. This foundation is bolstered by the fact the region is already home to over 20 per cent of the UK gaming sector and the city is well on the way to becoming the UK’s leading e-commerce hub.

Additionally the region is home to several centres of tech excellence such as the Centre of Excellence for Research in Computational Intelligence and Applications (CERCIA) at University of Birmingham. This energy and confidence in the sector is clear at both ends of the spectrum from multiple entrepreneurial start-ups and projects, through to ambitious projects from larger organisations such as the BBC and Asos.

James Edwards, founder and CEO, Bpi Agency

There’s a definite buzz around areas such as the Custard Factory, Jewellery Quarter and in Leamington Spa.

Boutique agencies are nestled in between the coffee shops and fashionable street food sellers.

A ‘new media’ culture similar to that of London’s Soho is emerging; yet all with one difference – the Brummie sense of humour.

Being the second largest city in the UK, you could say that we’re the underdog – we want it more and we work for it harder.

The irony is so many of our clients are London based – but they don’t care about logistics and we’re proud of where we come from.

Jill Fear, partnership manager, advertising and marketing communications, Creative Skillset

There’s a growing sense of confidence and optimism in Greater Birmingham. It has been bolstered by the BBC's renewed commitment to Birmingham, demonstrated by its new digital innovation unit, the Guerilla Group – exploring the next generation of BBC content – and by relocating the BBC Academy to the city. There’s a bubbling technology start-up scene clustered around incubators like Innovation Birmingham's 'Entrepreneurs for the Future' programme, plus greater coordination of the city's support infrastructure through the Creative City Partnership.

Underpinning all of this is Birmingham's ongoing regeneration, including dramatic overhauls of city centre landmarks like New Street Station and the Mailbox, which lends a sense of renewal to the city's long-standing creative industries, and the region's young, diverse population.

Further out, Leamington’s 'Silicon Spa' took a sizeable knock after 23-year-old Blitz Studios closed its doors in Sept 2013, but has shown real resilience with Blitz founders back with a new company, Radiant Worlds, and Ollie Clarke and Steve Stopps founding Arch Creatives co-working space – a hub for small innovative indies. Exient, of Angry Birds fame, has also set up a new studio in Leamington.

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