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Growth of creative sector could entrench London’s economic advantage – report

Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB Shutterstock Researchers claim the economic divide between London and the regions will increase. Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/Shutterstock
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An economic divide between London and the rest of the UK is at risk of intensifying owing to the growth of the creative industries, a new report has claimed.

The rapid growth of the creative industries means they are becoming more important to the economy. However, if more is not done to strengthen creative hotspots all over the UK, imbalances could be imbedded further.

This is one of the findings of The Geography of Creativity in the UK, a new study by innovation charity Nesta and Creative England, which identifies 47 areas of creative industry activity, called creative clusters, across Britain.

The creative industries include music and performing arts and film, radio and TV as well as sectors such as design, digital, advertising and architecture.

London tops the board, with 40% of creative industries employees – totalling 442,482 people – based there, as well as a third of creative businesses.

More than half of all creative industries employment and businesses are located in the South East, including the capital.

Concern about London’s dominance has previously been raised in reports about the arts specifically, which claimed that funding was unfairly weighted towards London.

Nesta’s report claims: “Since the creative industries tend disproportionately to locate in London and the South East of England, there is a risk therefore that the growth of the creative industries will further intensify the UK’s regional economic imbalances.”

The study – which uses massive amounts of data to provide a more detailed result – states that a small number of areas have become more important nationally and that the trend is towards more concentration of activity.

Despite the fact that the creative industries are growing twice as fast as the economy as a whole, it suggests that more should be done to ensure this growth is felt across the UK.

The geography of creativity in the UK
The geography of creativity in the UK

Both concentration and growth were measured as part of the research, with clusters emerging in both expected and unexpected areas.

Slough, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Wigan are included in the list of the 47 clusters, alongside major creative cities including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Brighton.

These 47 clusters now employ, on average, 28% more creative workers than seven years ago.

Around one in five creative clusters are found in the north of England, while Scotland and Wales are also home to “thriving creative ecosystems”, it said.

The report’s co-author and Nesta head of innovation mapping Juan Mateos-Garcia said the inclusion of creative clusters around towns such as Milton Keynes and Wigan was an unusual finding.

He said: “What we were surprised about was the extent to which these clusters included locations which are not the usual suspects. But this is something that’s coming out of the data and it’s very interesting.”

Mateos-Garcia stressed the importance of having a “balance” between the more traditionally creative cities, and new areas of growth.

“What we really want to do is make sure that those places which are really strong continue to be strong, because they are the great assets, but it’s also about developing these other places we have identified which might be a bit smaller,” he said.

These areas should be given more support and connectivity with other areas, as well as making sure that they are receiving attention from local policymakers and are connected with national support organisations, Mateos-Garcia said.

He added that the research could be used to make the case to local and national policymakers about the importance of the creative industries in all areas of the UK.

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