Support for creative sector in Coventry ‘lacks co-ordination’

A lack of co-ordination across projects and initiatives to support the creative industries is hampering growth in the Coventry region, according to a report produced by Coventry University for Coventry City Council.

The document, Creative Industries in Coventry and Warwickshire, pinpoints a lack of co-ordination between public agencies working across the Coventry Local Enterprise Growth Area to support the creative industries, which is creating a weakly developed sense of creative community in the area.

This claim comes despite the recent establishment of institutions such as Coventry University’s Design Hub, which was set up in August 2007, and the university’s Institute for Creative Enterprises, which was established in June this year.

Kathryn Stewart, manager of the Design Hub, which is a dedicated space used for meetings, hot-desking and presentations by design consultancies and product designers, says the organisation was set up specifically to work in a co-ordinated way, pointing out that it links up strategically with the Institute for Creative Enterprises and the university’s Serious Games Institute.

She adds, ‘We are still newly established, so maybe there is not enough publicity about us at the moment – maybe we need to raise the profile of what we are doing.’

Christine Hamilton, director of the Institute for Creative Enterprises, which houses research and business support for creative firms, agrees that the university is already taking the initiative in promoting the creative industries. She says, ‘We are working at what our strengths are – the institute is working on the strengths of our graduates and providing the help that our graduates need.

‘Where there is crossover with the Design Hub or the Serious Games Institute, then we embrace that.’ Dr David Jarvis, senior research fellow at Coventry University’s Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (known as Surge) and co-author of the report, says the research identified four key areas of concern.

He says there needs to be more co-ordination, with local authorities working together to market the sub-region. The marketing of the area also needs to be improved, to show that Coventry works as a creative venue. ‘Not enough is made of the combination of the infrastructure and facilities of Coventry and the lifestyle in Warwickshire,’ he says.

Jarvis adds that there needs to be a new perception of business success, which shouldn’t just be measured by job creation, and also points out that Coventry needs to build on the creative industry successes it already has. He says, ‘The creative industries are very broad, so we can’t encourage everything. We need to look at what we do well.’

The success areas identified by the report were: the serious games industry in Coventry, which concentrates on programmes such as simulators used by the Army; the designer-fashion scene in Coventry; and the theatre and performing arts in the wider sub-region – driven by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s presence in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Jarvis adds that design was seen as a core industry by the key stakeholders interviewed for the report, but that design’s importance is very difficult to isolate as the UK’s Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities doesn’t categorise design, with it falling into the ‘general’ category.

He adds, ‘One of the other key things the report identified was the role of the [local] universities – Coventry University and Warwick University – in driving creative industries in the region. In the experience of our key stakeholders this marked the region out.’

Creative industries in the West Midlands

• Two million people are employed in the creative industries in the UK, which contribute £60bn a year to the national economy

• The West Midlands as a whole has a 7.1% share of the UK’s cultural firms

• 92% of creative students leave the West Midlands following graduation

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