There's no doubt that the creative scene in Bournemouth is changing. Beside being the fastest growing creative hub in the whole of the UK (expanding at twice the rate of London), it is home to Oscar-winning animation studios and thriving industry networks such as Silicon South.
As part of our Creative Cities series, in which Lewis Blackwell tours the UK's creative hubs, The Drum caught up with some key voices from Bournemouth’s creative sector to get the inside track on the industry in the coastal town, its assets and opportunities, key trends and the challenges faced there.
How do agencies in Bournemouth foster a sense of community?
Caroline Norbury MBE, chief executive, Creative England
There’s definitely a strong sense of community among the creatives here – whether it’s through networks such as Silicon South, the incredibly active Dorset Business Angels, or the annual Silicon Beach conference; there are a lot of opportunities for knowledge sharing. There is also a willingness and hunger for companies to come together and build on this already great creative network.
Hannah Peers, media and marketing co-ordinator, Amuzo
There’s a real evident shared mentality that the social side of business is just as important to the growth of the industry as the commercial side. Regular digital-specific events, like Meetdraw for example, offer an informal opportunity to network, share experiences and knowledge and find out what wonderful things are happening on our doorsteps. People take a genuine interest in what it is their digital neighbours are up to, which really helps to harness that sense of community.
Duncan Cook, managing director, 3 Sided Cube
The old days of competing with companies based on proximity doesn’t really exist in digital. We compete with companies in New York, Tel Aviv, Bristol – not necessarily Bournemouth. Agencies in the area actually benefit if there are strong agencies around as it increases the talent pool and stops people moving to other locations, so we share our processes, our struggles and how we succeed, which allows us to get smarter and quicker together.
What’s the town’s greatest asset for the creative industries?
Martin Walker, managing director, Walker Agency and IPA member
Bournemouth University is bringing bright young people down to the south coast with its excellent courses, and understandably many of them fall in love with the lifestyle and choose to stay. There are excellent career opportunities here, in creative, digital and film. This influx of young talent is fast becoming our greatest asset.
Andrew Henning,chief executive, Redweb
Bournemouth is really a ‘city’ by the sea in all but name, and hence is bigger than a lot of people realise. The conurbation is about the size of Bristol. This allows us to have a strong talent pool which is prominently fed through our two excellent universities. Our proximity to London is ideal; we are close enough to be involved but far enough away to not sit on the commuter belt.
What do you see as being key to the future growth of the creative industries in the town?
Chris Goodwin, chief executive, RLA and IPA member
Recognition and awareness of Bournemouth as a regional creative powerhouse is essential to growth.
We are a fast growing community but we always need more recognition outside of our reach.
Attracting the right kind of international agency talent to make the town their home is important if we are to continue to attract the quality and size of clients to the town we have been doing over the last 10 years.
Paul Honey, managing director, Strange
For agencies like us the key to future growth is for increasing numbers of brands to discover the advantages of working with regional agencies. Clients don’t have to compromise on capability as there’s some really great work being done here and the overheads are lower. This means that agency rates are likely to be cheaper than in London and the work equally as good, if not better.
Adam Greenwood, managing director, IADigital
The current digital and creative success of Bournemouth is largely a result of two factors – a rich seam of graduates from our two exceptional universities, and its idyllic location and beautiful beaches. As a result of these elements, people have stayed in the area and founded digital and creative businesses. But thinking ahead to the future, the key to success is talent and how to attract, retain and nurture the best talent. As the number and size of the town’s agencies grow, the search for senior and fresh talent is becoming more competitive.
What is the biggest trend disrupting the creative industries in Bournemouth at the moment?
Adam King, founder, Media LoungeThe usual suspects of mobile and ubiquitous access to high-speed broadband notwithstanding, the real disruption to the sector is the rising number of small, niche, expert agencies emerging recently. As clients become better informed, this could signal the slow demise of the full service, integrated agency.
Daniel Smith, managing director, Fireworx Creative
With the emergence of new technologies, multiple channels and blurring of the lines between digital, marketing, creative and advertising agencies, it’s increasingly difficult for clients to understand what agencies actually specialise in. It’s a minefield for graduates, too, when trying to decide which agencies to apply for in order to best suit their skill sets.
What’s the biggest challenge for businesses currently based in the town?
Gellan Watt, managing director and chief creative officer, Thinking Juice
There’s a talent timebomb ticking. We can’t all keep growing as fast as we are locally with the levels of available middleweight talent. The universities are pumping out some fantastic graduates and we can poach from each other all day long – but that’s not sustainable. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, there’s a definite shallow in that area. It will ease, but we need to keep pushing so everyone in the creative industries knows that Bournemouth is a great place to work and live, not a compromise.
Arabella Lewis-Smith, founder and managing director, Salad Creative
One key challenge is the availability of suitable office space. With growth comes the need for larger premises and it would be great to see more in terms of characterful or interesting buildings to suit businesses in the creative industry. The idea of a creative and tech hub, or simply a zone which houses firms like ours, would be of huge benefit to agencies and clients alike, and increase the gravity pull to attract the best talent.