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Press release: Poorest areas excluded from Manchester’s creative industries success story

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Research shows poorest parts of Manchester have few firms & little/no employment in creative sector

29 September 2022 – Manchester has long been considered a creative industries success story. It is the one place outside the south-east of England that can rival the dominance of London. However, new research published today by the AHRC-funded Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre, on the presence of the creative industries in the Manchester city-region, points to a more complex picture with large areas, mostly in the poorest parts of the city, having few creative industries firms and very little to no creative industries employment.

The Creative Industries includes areas such as architecture, fashion, film, games design, music and publishing, but about half of the creative industries are less prominent activities oriented to computer software in IT services. Collectively the creative industries constitute an economic powerhouse, delivering £115.9bn GVA to the UK economy, accounting for 2.2 million jobs, and exporting more than £50bn per year. However, this economic activity is not distributed equally across the UK and is predominantly located in London and the south east, with Manchester something of a northern hot-spot.

But even within Manchester there are hot and cold areas, as the new report published with the Alliance Manchester Business School at The University of Manchester reveals. The city centre and Salford Quays are creative industries ‘hot spots’, and there are several smaller ones predominantly in the south of the city region – in places like Altincham and Wilmslow. Meanwhile there are large ‘cold’ areas, with little creative industries activity at all, at least as recorded in official statistics, especially in the inner east side of the city-region and in the north of the city-region. Indeed, outside of the city-centre and Salford Quays, the presence of the creative industries aligns fairly well with the geography of prosperity and deprivation across the city region.

There is therefore a need to “level up” not only across the country, but within city-regions. Solution to the unequal activity in Manchester is likely to require a combination of increasing affordable access to the city centre from the outer areas, something that the recently introduced £2 cap on bus fares should help with, but it also means growing opportunities in the more deprived districts and communities. This will not be easy, and the challenge of levelling up opportunities within regions is probably greater than the challenge of levelling up across regions.

Report author Professor Bruce Tether, Alliance Manchester Business School and Research Director at the Creative PEC says:

“Manchester is recognised as one of Europe’s largest creative, digital and technology clusters and city authorities boast of the economic and cultural contribution. The creative industries presence in Manchester is substantially larger than those in other large cities in the midlands and north of England. However Manchester’s creative industries are also only a fraction of those in London, and in Manchester account for less than half the share of all workplaces and employment that they do in London.

In this report I draw attention to the fact that Creative Industries in the Manchester city-region are largely concentrated in the city centre, Salford Quays and a few other small areas, which are among the most affluent in the city-region. There are large areas with very little to no creative industries employment especially in the north side of the city region. In many ways Manchester reproduces at the city-region level the inequalities that exist across the UK as a whole.

This demonstrates how difficult levelling up can be. You can level up nationally by helping the north grow faster than the south, but this could actually enhance rather than diminish local inequalities, as activity is most likely to grow in the existing hot spots. The central policy challenge is to enhance opportunities in the poor and deprived areas of Manchester, and for the people who live there.”

Benjamin Kulka, Policy and Research Manager at the Creative PEC says:

“Greater Manchester is lauded as being at the forefront of creative industries-led regeneration in the UK, and it is undoubtably a success story. However many challenges specific to the sector remain. The location of the creative industries with concentration in the wealthier parts of the city region means that residents living in the more deprived areas find it challenging to access these opportunities. This is why the work of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to create an integrated transport network is so crucial to decreasing travel time and increaseing the area that people can commute to”.

Read the full report from 29 Sep 2022, ‘Creative Clusters and Sparse Spaces: Manchester’s Creative Industries and the Geographies of Deprivation and Prosperity’ at:

The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)


The Report author is available for interview: Professor Bruce Tether, the Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester

Press contact: Alice Kent 07779029055 (Mon – Wed) and Anna Zabow 07713 619077 / (Thus & Fri).

Notes to Editors:

1. The new research will be live from 00.01 on 29 September 2022. This research was carried out by the Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, a consortium member of the AHRC- funded Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC).

2. About the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC)

The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) works to support the growth of the UK’s Creative Industries through the production of independent and authoritative evidence and policy advice. Led by Nesta and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, the Centre comprises a consortium of universities and one joint enterprise from across the UK They are: Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Work Advance, London School of Economics, Manchester, Newcastle, Sussex, and Ulster. The PEC works with a diverse range of industry partners including the Creative Industries Federation. To find out more, visit and @CreativePEC.

3. The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which is funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on behalf of UK Research and Innovation.

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