Northern Creative Corridor puts shiny gloss on looming threats to creative industries

A new Northern Creative Corridor initiative has been launched by the government and think tank the RSA to drive the development of creative industries across the North.

The partnership is intended to unlock the huge potential of the creative industries across the North of England, which it claims could raise the Gross Value Added (GVA) economic output across the region by an additional £10 billion each year. 

A charter has been set out which commits local and sector leaders to collaborate in developing skills, finance, innovation, and communication across the creative industries.

However, there are looming threats to several key segments of the wider creative industries, including precarious employment, casualisation and in television a new Media Bill will bring more of Channel 4’s production in-house, potentially a threat to independent production companies, a move the chief executive of indies trade body Pact described as “disappointing”.

“We would call on Channel 4 to carefully consider any move into in-house production given the current difficult market conditions, said John McVay, Pact’s chief executive.

Also, Philippa Childs, head of media union Bectu, said: “We await the upcoming Autumn Statement with interest to see if it will now put its money where its mouth is and support the sector and its workers. The Government has long been vocal about how central the creative industries are to a strong UK economy. The proof will be in the pudding of whether it intends to stand by these warm words.”

Hasan Bakhshi, Director Creative PEC said: “All the evidence suggests that neighbouring creative clusters can work together in key areas like workforce skills and access to finance to supercharge growth in their creative industries. The North of England’s creative industries grew in real terms by around 23 per cent between 2010 and 2019 before the pandemic. However, despite the presence of creative hotspots like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, the creative industries still only contribute around 3 per cent of the north’s economy, compared with just under 10 per cent in London and the Southeast. This illustrates the huge scale of the opportunity.” 

But there are 28 signatories of the charter, including the mayors in Liverpool, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the North of Tyne, and sector leaders including Creative UK, North-East Screen, the N8 Research Partnership universities, and Ubisoft, plus the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “From the grassroots music venues that launched The Beatles in Liverpool to today’s cutting edge screen facilities in Yorkshire and Salford’s MediaCityUK, our creative industries have always thrived in the North of England. We know great things happen when creative industries work together, and the Northern Creative Corridor is going to maximise the potential of these sectors so communities across the region can benefit from new opportunities and investment.”

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “We are united in our shared ambition to level up our towns and cities by turbocharging our cultural offer in the North of England. The route to regeneration, well-paid jobs and happier communities lies in building better places, with creative opportunities for all at the heart of our plans for economic growth. I look forward to further collaboration across the North of England, as we unleash our full potential and drive more opportunities for creative talent to thrive.” 

Signatories to the charter have committed to making the North of England ‘one of the best regions in the UK for creative industries to thrive’. 

Next steps will involve a series of workshops in January and February 2024, to bring together policy, business, education, and civil society stakeholders, including creative industries and arts, culture, and heritage practitioners.

The results of this activity will be reported at the Convention of the North to be held in Leeds in March 2024. 

New policy and practice interventions will be co-designed and stress-tested across skills, finance, and innovation, to help realise creative corridors in different parts of the UK.