Spring is upon us. Across the Thames Estuary buds are opening, new-born animals of all types are prancing and dancing and we are seeing longer, warmer and brighter days. As someone who revels in warmth, I love the promise of long summer days that Spring signals. The evidence of growth in hedgerows, the greening of the landscape and colour that begins to pop in gardens. The lengthening days are hopeful and generous.
After the last 12 months, when there was so much loss and unimaginable impact on everyday life, in every corner of the UK buds of hope and optimism are opening. With the roadmap in place in the UK to bring us out of lockdown, get the economy moving and allow us to live fully again, the country is experiencing a wakening and measured flow of renewed energy.
One of the places I am personally seeing Spring, where buds have been developing, growing and are now exploding with life, is in our Creative Estuary project. All of our sparks – our work streams – are fully mobilised and starting to make progress. Our Ideas Labs, which had been delayed due to the pandemic, are on the horizon. And our plans for creative places are progressing. After the long winter that was 2020, 2021 is Spring for Creative Estuary.
By using culture as the catalyst for growth, the Thames Estuary will provide much-needed space for blossoming creative businesses and provide the ideal conditions – scale of services, skills and infrastructure – sought by both UK organisations and international creative businesses.
Our programme will transform the visibility, identity and future of the area’s creative production infrastructure, supporting more than 400 new jobs, and delivering new skills, qualifications, and apprenticeships across an area of 1.5million people.
The success of Creative Estuary will contribute to wider national programmes, such as Build Back Better, to generate investment, jobs, and creative industry opportunities for the whole Thames Estuary, making it one of the most attractive places to live and work in the UK.
But why now? As the UK is still in the midst of the pandemic, why should we be talking about and investing in creativity? Well, the creative industries brought in excess of £110b to the UK economy in 2019.
A good way to illustrate the breadth of the creative industries is through film credits. We all know them, but how often do we take in the multitude of roles and the breadth of talent that go into a film’s creation. They are a directory of all of those involved and a valuable demonstration of the breadth of skills expertise and talent that makes up and supplies the creative industries.
Sound engineers, carpenters, set builders and dressers, costumiers, CGI artists, animators and lighting designers, choreographers, photographers, transport and logistics, financiers and producers along with many others appear on the screen. Each and every one has played a role in bringing the film to fruition. And that is just one part of our industry. This hidden value and productivity is multiplied across all sectors from fashion, design, theatre and architecture, to contemporary craft, game design and more. And embedded within non-creative sectors such as automotive design, engineering and transport are creative professionals, driving innovation, productivity and growth.
Like many other sectors, the creative industries have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic. As the UK recovers and grows, our creative industries are a logical investment. Research published last year by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), showed that following the economic crash of 2008 creative businesses recovered more quickly than many other sectors. As we seek to build a new and exciting creative cluster here along the Thames, we think Creative Estuary is a good place for them to blossom.