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Press release: What happens to coastal towns when the holiday-makers leave?

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Could investment in the Creative Industries be key to year-round, economic development?

Could investment in the Creative Industries be key to year-round, economic development?

1 September 2022 – As August comes to an end and thousands of us return from holiday escapes to the coast and particularly favoured beauty spots such as Devon and Cornwall, new research published today by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) points to the year-round economic difficulties such regions face out of season. The researchers from the University of Exeter suggest investment in the creative industries could be significant in supporting positive, inclusive economic development all year round.

The research reveals that creative industry firms (from graphic design, to fashion, and film) in Devon and Cornwall want to invest in the skills and careers of local young people and support their ability to remain living and working in the region. However, they are restricted by an access to finance and access to the level of national and local government support that creative industry businesses in ‘urban clusters’ receive. The researchers highlight the importance of training businesses to apply for grants and training young people about opportunities in the sector.

Dr Lucy McFadzean, Research Associate at The University of Exeter, who carried out the research said:

“Whilst the seaside towns and villages of Devon and Cornwall are bustling at this time of year, our research shows that creative businesses in the region need more year-round investments and opportunities to thrive.

We saw that many of Devon and Cornwall’s creative businesses were really resilient over the pandemic, accessing new online audiences and clients and benefitting from COVID support funds that were not reliant on strict parameters like business density. This showed us the benefits of creative industries investment in a region where applying for and accessing funding is historically low.

In a rural, dispersed region, those we spoke to highlighted the need for animated sector networks, flexible creative apprenticeships, and better regional infrastructure.”

The often project-based nature of creative industry work is another factor that can make it difficult for firms to provide full-time employment. The researchers call for more investment in flexible apprenticeships specifically in Creative Industry occupations that would allow employment across multiple creative small businesses over a set period. They also suggest there is still a need for creative courses at further and higher education level to support more industry experience in local creative businesses so that young people graduate with the skills needed.

The report ‘Creative Industries Innovation in Seaside Resorts and Country Towns’ by Dr Lucy McFadzean, Professor Gabriella Giannachi, and Joanne Evans is published by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

It points also to the need for more formal coordination for sector specific networks to facilitate peer to peer networking, learning opportunities and knowledge exchange. In rural and coastal regions such as Devon and Cornwall, creative industry firms are often spread across a large geographical area and to support greater collaboration formal networks and structures could help.

Above all the research points to recurring barriers to coastal regions such as Devon and Cornwall sustaining local creative ecologies namely, the need for improved local transport links and affordable housing. This points to how essential it is that the Levelling-Up agenda doesn’t fall down the list of priorities for the new Prime Minister.

Simon Beer, Operations and Digital Director at Bigwave Marketing, and a participant in the research said:

“I was lucky enough to go onto one of the government peer network programs that was run as a consequence of COVID and I found it just amazing. It was invaluable. Just being able to meet a handful of other people that were kind of in the same boat. Just to be able to talk to each other. It was just brilliant and so I think more of that but maybe more specific to the creative sector.”


Report authors are available for interview: Joanne Evans, Impact and Partnership Development Manager – Creative Industries at the University of Exeter, and Lucy McFadzean, Research Associate at The University of Exeter.

Press contact: Alice Kent 07779029055 and Anna Zabow 07713 619077 /

Notes to Editors

1. The new research will be live from 00.01 on 1st September 2022. This research was commissioned by the AHRC- funded Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) from the The Centre for Intermedia and Creative Technology (CICT) at University of Exeter.

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.

Image by Andrew Jones via Pexels

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