The UK’s creative industries are now worth £76.9 billion per year to the economy. That’s according to figures published in January last year. In 2013 alone the sector grew by 10% – three times that of the wider UK economy.
This is divided into nine sub-sectors by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), ranging from music, performing and visual arts to advertising and marketing, crafts and architecture. Such growth has required a re-evaluation from both industry and Government. Could understanding this rapid increase provide shelter from the “cocktail of economic risks” which George Osborne recently mentioned we now face?
Assessing a trend
As the representative association for the self-employed, IPSE are also re-evaluating. According to 2012 figures, 24% of those engaged in the creative industries are freelancers. Our aim is to ensure the rapidly increasing number of self-employed people in the UK working in, or with, the creative industries are supported.
To see a case in point, this article looks at Scotland in particular, where certain sectors of the creative industries have seen huge growth in recent years.
A recent enquiry by the Scottish Affairs Committee represents a concerted effort to investigate the impact and support available to the creative sector in Scotland on a regional level, organised through Government. The results are an interesting evaluation of how organisations can work better together to strengthen the creative industry and ensure best output.
Of all the classifications for the creative industry used by the DCMS in their 2015 report, ‘IT, software and computer services’ is the largest – both in employment numbers and in contribution to the economy. This classification accounted for 45.6% per cent of the overall GVA of the creative industries and saw steady growth between 2008 and 2014.
Arguably a reason for the Scottish Affairs Committee Enquiry into the creative industries is the activity at the digital end of the creative spectrum.
Many have identified parts of Scotland as burgeoning digitally creative ‘hubs’ or ‘clusters’. Dundee hosts two mammoth companies of the computer games industry. One is Rockstar North Ltd., producer of the world’s biggest selling video game – the untiring Grand Theft Auto 5. Perhaps the most important factor contributing to this hub is a specialist university course at Abertay University which offered the world’s first computer games degree in 1997. A talented generation of gaming designers and developers has been fostered here for quite some time.
One organisation working hard to support the new generation of self-employed digital creatives is Bright Red Triangle (BRT). Their focus is on “improving the enterprise skills and employability” of students at Edinburgh Napier university, where they are based. Professional and personal development activities are organised through partnerships with stakeholder businesses, providing a direct link between businesses and students.
As Jane Grant, an incubator manager at BRT, says: “We’re always looking to innovate and try new things. Today we opened our new Bright Red Triangle space in collaboration with the Royal Bank of Scotland. This was opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Here we will do some projects with the RBS entrepreneurial centre as well as host events.”
Edinburgh is a key player in the overall UK digital creative economy. It is identified by a 2015 Tech City UK report as one of the top five high density clusters of digital companies.
Working through networking
Hilde Frydnes is Marketing Director & Founder of digital consultancy TellTall and has first-hand experience of being self-employed in Edinburgh.
“In Edinburgh, the tech and creative industries are very much interlinked and rely on one another. There are many networks to provide connections for freelancers and these are a great place to pitch ideas. Some which I’ve been involved with include CodeBase, the UK’s largest tech incubator, Creative Edinburgh, a membership organisation, and Creative Exchange, a workspace community.”
IPSE’s regional representative for Scotland has increased efforts to support the creative community, particularly in Edinburgh, over the past year. This is part of IPSE’s move to expand support for hubs on a regional level, all across the UK.
One network in particular which IPSE have partnered with is Creative Mornings in Edinburgh. As an organisation they have a truly global reach, and started life in New York City as a regular accessible event for the creative community. In Edinburgh, Creative Mornings events regularly receive up to 100 guests. Talks are given by photographers, architects, artists and scientists, to name a few. Sign up on their website to attend!
Your best tools
Aside from networks, the digital creative community require the tools necessary to carry out work. The most obvious of these is broadband access. This is recognised in the Scottish Affairs Committee Enquiry as a common challenge presented by creative enterprises in rural areas. In the report, evidence was submitted which showed the UK Government, along with other public bodies, are investing £1.7billion to improve broadband and mobile coverage. The aim is to provide superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017.
This policy is a key part of the IPSE manifesto, our policy document which lays out the areas we wish to address in order to better support the self-employed. Broadband access is something we have always tried to put at the top of the Government’s agenda. If the self-employed part of the labour market do not have access to the infrastructure required, they cannot fully achieve their potential to boost the economy.
Scotland’s growing creative industry, leaning towards the digital side of things but also including strength in crafts and design, is an example of an industry which requires support. As the Scottish Affairs Committee enquiry shows, “the need for better communication” between organisations and creative businesses has been put in the spotlight. As IPSE’s manifesto outlines – which is available to view online – we are dedicated to improving regional support for the self-employed. When it comes to the creative sector, and the digital creative industries in particular, we recognise a rapid growth in freelancers and self-employed people. Most importantly, regional networks and access to broadband in more rural areas will continue to be top of our agenda.