The relationships between cultural organisations and local creative industries in the context of a cultural district

24 February 2022

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Natalia Vartapetova, 

Natalia Vartapetova

AEA Consulting

Harry Fisher-Jones, 

Harry Fisher-Jones

Senior Consultant, AEA Consulting

Senior Consultant, AEA Consulting

Christie Lam

Christie Lam

Research Analyst, AEA Consulting

Research Analyst, AEA Consulting

This Discussion Paper was commissioned by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and delivered by AEA Consulting (AEA) in partnership with Professor Geoffrey Crossick. 

It explores the relationships that exist between ‘anchor’ cultural institutions and local creative industry businesses within shared locales and calls for more formal coordination, tailored local funding and targeted R&D to better facilitate knowledge exchange and supply chain interaction.

The paper uses five cultural districts as case studies; Culture Mile in London, Salford Quays in Newcastle and Gateshead Quays, Better Bankside in London, Bristol Harbourside, and Dundee Waterfront to explore the relationships that exist between large not-for-profit cultural institutions in these areas (e.g. Watershed Bristol, V&A Dundee) and local creative industry businesses.

Over 150 cultural sector representatives including business owners and freelancers took part in the research. It focused on interactions within three specific themes of area branding and placemaking, knowledge exchange, skills development and networking and supply chain interactions.

The report finds that ‘master-planned’ cultural districts have a significant impact on area branding and placemaking and that they strengthen the pull of creative businesses. Universally representatives from creative industry businesses reported that the presence of larger anchor cultural institutions supported the character of their local area and made it a more attractive place to visit and work. The report puts forward a number of measures that could be employed to encourage greater knowledge exchange and supply chain interaction.

There is a need for more coordinated neighborhood networks to support awareness of creative businesses in the locality. Such networks could be facilitated by local councils or by universities, where present. Local and national funders should consider targeted investment for research and development (R&D) project collaboration to stimulate cross-sector innovation and encourage new business opportunities. 

A number of cultural organisations suggested that councils could play a bridging role in cultivating relationships. It was noted that the move to more online programming and the need for high-quality audience experience provides an opportunity for cultural institutions to engage more with local specialist digital companies.

Large scale cultural institutions can and do support local creatives through hosting talks and networking sessions and providing subsidised studio and work spaces.