The Geographies of the Creative Industries: Scale, Clusters and Connectivity

By Thomas, Nicola J.; Hawkins, Harriet et al. | Geography, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

The Geographies of the Creative Industries: Scale, Clusters and Connectivity


Thomas, Nicola J., Hawkins, Harriet, Harvey, David C., Geography


ABSTRACT:

The creative industries comprise one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy. This article introduces the geographies of these industries in the context of recent government policy that regards the sector as a catalyst for economic, social and cultural regeneration. It then focuses on one region, the South West, and one sub-sector, the digital media industry, as a background to exploring the activities of the creative agency South West Screen and the company Spider Eye Animation. Thinking about these organisations enables us to explore the clusters, networks and connections that characterise the geographies of the creative industries and to illuminate the links between local, regional, national and international scales.

The creative industries

'Our aim is to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, support the pursuit of excellence, and champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries' (DCMS, 2008).

'Only a Digital Britain can unlock the imagination and creativity that will secure for us and our children the highly skilled jobs of the future. Only a Digital Britain will secure the wonders of an information revolution that could transform every part of our lives. Only a Digital Britain will enable us to demonstrate the vision and dynamism that we have to shape the future' (Rt Hon. Gordon Brown MP in DCMS/BIS, 2009, p. 7).

The products associated with 'creative industries' have become part of our daily lives in the UK and across much of the world. The majority of us are part of the industry as consumers: we might read magazines or books, play games on the web, go to gigs or the cinema, or walk past advertising hoardings while listening to music. Around two million people in the UK are employed in creating the cultural goods, content, experiences and services that we consume. The creative industries contribute £60 billion a year (7.3%) to the UK economy, and with a growth rate in the last few years twice that of the economy as a whole it is not surprising that the UK government has thrown its weight behind the creative sector. The recent government strategy documents - 'Creative Britain' (DCMS, 2008) and 'Digital Britain' (DCMS/BIS, 2009) - offer an ambitious strategic vision that aims to turn the UK into 'the World's creative hub'. Together, these strategies have focused attention on the creative industries, and the role this sector plays in enriching Britain's economic, social and cultural life.

The creative industries comprise a sector that brings together a host of activities including advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio. It is a sector with multiple dimensions, incorporating those who create content (such as Aardman Animations, the creators of 'Wallace and Gromit'); those who design and make original works (such as the artist, Anthony Gormley); those who provide services (such as advertising); and others who enable consumers to have cultural experiences (for example at the cinema, an arts venue or a museum) (see Scott, 2000; Power and Scott, 2004).1

The term 'creative industries' came into common usage quite recently. In the UK, its use since 1997 has been strongly linked to the re-branding of the 'cultural economy' under the New Labour Government, which established a creative industries task force to 'analyse the needs of the creative industries and develop a policy across government' and ensure that their value to the UK was sustained and developed (Jayne, 2005, p. 539). Prior to this specifically economic focus, policy development for the creative sector was orientated towards its perceived social and cultural value of creative practice in building communities and exploring identity (rather than its potential economic value). …

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