Meet our Champion: Gavin Cleary

To help tell the Creative Estuary story we are delighted to have the support of our Champions to advocate for us and amplify our vision. Our Champions are drawn from many walks of life, reflecting our diverse and inclusive creative region, but all strongly support the Creative Estuary vision and ambition.

We want you to get to know our Champions better and so we sat down for a series of fascinating conversations to allow them to give us an insight into their role and involvement in Creative Estuary, what their aspirations are for the project and their love for our stunning estuary.

Gavin Cleary is the Chief Executive of Locate in Kent and places a crucial role in helping us bring foreign investment to the region.

Tell us about your current role/s:

I’m Gavin Cleary, and I’m the Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, the inward investment agency for Kent and Medway. Our job at Locate in Kent is to attract foreign direct investment to the area and domestic investment that’s new to Kent. In addition, we offer a range of services for businesses to grow, to adapt, to thrive and to internationalise in our communities.

What is your involvement in Creative Estuary? 

I have the real privilege of sitting on the steering group for Creative Estuary. The role allows me to interact with some incredibly talented people, some leaders in their field and some creative colossi’s – some world leading practitioners in their field. An additional honour for Locate in Kent, is that one of the key delivery people for the project sits in our team so I have a day-to-day role too in the delivery of Creative Estuary.

Why did you say “yes” to becoming one of our champions?

So, our role as an organisation is promoting inward investment opportunities. A key element of that is having a product; having something to market, something coherent that we can take out into the market and allow our clients to coalesce around. Having been involved previously with the Thames Estuary Production Corridor – which again I found immensely exciting – what I find exciting about Creative Estuary is that it is something we can take out onto the world stage. It is a unique offer we have for the international arena.

Also, another part of what we do is to build communities and to contribute to the resilience and growth of individual communities as well as the region. The project has the potential to elevate the areas in the estuary and bring together some cultural and community cohesion, particularly across areas that have been impacted over the years with significant changes. A movement like this has the potential to bring together what at times can be quite disparate communities.

To you, what is the biggest draw of the Estuary for creatives?

Firstly, there is an existing critical mass; there are already a lot of people who are working in the creative industries in south Essex and north Kent. And lots of those people have made the move from other parts of the UK, if not the world, to the region over the last 15-20 years. People will be joining what is already in existence. Having existing clusters gives the opportunity for a kind of serendipitous collisions that actually really allow the creatives juices to flow and the sparks to fly.

Secondly, it’s the connectivity. From both sides of the river you can easily get into London or head off internationally with real ease.

The third draw in my opinion is the availability of amazing spaces. You get a lot more for your money in north Kent or south Essex! And there are some incredible locations, from historic to new buildings, which is particularly good for those creatives who have been pushed out of more expensive locations as the drive of gentrification grows. We have availability of not just high quality, but also quirky spaces in buildings that are being converted, and these match the environments created in places such as Shoreditch and Deptford in recent years.

Finally, it is an inspirational place! In terms of the landscape, the light, the vistas and being close to the sea and the big skies, it is incredible and very conducive to the creative sectors.

One of the key drivers for inward investment is access to talent and skills. Having the environment where creatives want to live is important. Having robust, exciting, dynamic, fast moving and rich creative sector offer is important and it helps attract people and therefore investment. Creative Estuary is creating communities in which people will want to work, live and stay.

Our champions are drawn from across creative, education, development and finance industries. They reflect the inclusivity we want grow with the development. What are your views of Diversity and Inclusiveness in the creative industries and therefore the Creative Estuary project?

For this to have longevity and sustainability it’s essential that we bring together people from different walks of life, different industries, different age groups, different ethnicities and celebrate that diversity in the environment we’re looking at. Without that there won’t be the permanence that I am really excited about – this isn’t a two or three year project, it looks out to the future and it needs to evolve and adapt as the communities evolve and adapt.

What is your favourite place on the Thames Estuary?

That’s a really hard one for me! After much deliberation and with many other potential choices, I think it is Margate. It has seen an incredible change and transformation from what was a very challenged part of the country, and while it still has challenges, I am inspired by the cultural lead regeneration. The energy and the people as well as the links to other communities are all complimentary. And of course to breathe in the air and enjoy the sea that inspired Turner.

Champion: Gavin Cleary