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Creative powerhouses and clusters: Welcome to the UK's Creative Cities

We’re all familiar with George Osborne’s ambition to build a ‘northern powerhouse’ as a counter-balance to London.

Now, with the inclusion of the Cities Devolution Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech, the idea that cities can take greater control of their own destiny moves a step closer, and becomes national too.

So the time is right for a parallel initiative, in support of the Creative Industries Council strategy to promote growth and jobs in the creative industries nationwide.

The Creative Cities initiative, led in 2015 by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and Creative England(and in 2014 with Creative Skillset), has a two-fold role: one, to promote the creative sector; and two, to promote key UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds – as creative powerhouses capable of punching above their weight nationally and internationally.

We know the UK is a global leader in the creative industries – including TV and film production, software and games, publishing, design, fashion and advertising.

We know too, thanks to work by The DCMS between June 2014 and January 2015, that the creative industries account for:

  • £76.9bn of gross value-added output
  • Five per cent of the UK economy
  • 2.62m jobs, direct and indirect
  • £17.3bn of exports

The casual assumption is that the creative economy is London-centric but this is just not true. Other cities in the UK where advertising, publishing, film-making, fashion and software businesses are clustered are creative powerhouses too.

Clusters are good, because they feed off each other, help attract and retain talent, and collectively provide an infrastructure that helps creative businesses prosper and grow.

Something’s clearly working. Nearly eight per cent of the jobs in the creative economy are in Manchester and the North West, 7.8 per cent in Bristol and the South West, and 5.2 per cent in Birmingham and the Midlands.

But we can do more still, which is why the IPA and Creative England are, together with The Drum, launching the Creative Cities hub, as well as running events across the country.

The process started last year when former Creative Review editor Lewis Blackwell visited cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, and reported his findings in a series of supplements.

The aims for Creative Cities are clear:

  • Bring the creative communities in our city clusters together to drive growth and jobs
  • Promote the cities as centres of outstanding creativity on the national and international stages
  • Highlight and debate the barriers for creative communities, and campaign for change
  • Showcase business, people and organisational success, city by city
  • Uncover economic and business data that can be used to promote the cities, as well as provide better benchmarking between them
  • To allow our cities to articulate a common purpose and announce their creative vision and positioning

Blackwell has resumed his tour around the country, starting in Newcastle, with Bournemouth up next.

In and around those trips, and a series of showcase events throughout the year, we’ll be posting articles every week on the Creative Cities hub, as well as inviting people from those creative cities to contribute blogs and thought pieces, or just to let us know what’s going on in their city, that we can publish and showcase to the wider world.

If you want to contribute, contact either Janet Hull or Leila Siddiqi at the IPA.

Welcome to the UK’s Creative Cities.

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