The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership has now
formally closed as a registered limited company.

To stay updated on the latest economic developments throughout the region, we encourage you to visit the South East Midlands Growth Hub. The SEM Growth Hub also provides free business advice and guidance to all businesses, manages funding and grant programmes and has an extensive resource library where businesses can find additional support.

Visit the South East Midlands Growth Hub here

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Blog post: Arts and innovation - securing our creative future

10 May 2019

Robert West speaking at business event in UK Centre for Carnival Arts Robert West, Programme Director CC Skills

If you’ve watched the latest series of Victoria, you’ll have seen the tension unfold between Prince Albert and the leadership of Cambridge University as he presses hard for a shift towards science and engineering from a pure focus on classics and theology.  The penultimate episode unpacked the planning for The Great Exhibition of 1851 where the Prince, described by the Queen as a ‘dreamer’, planned to bring together all nations for the greatest collection of art in industry

Bringing together the arts, culture and heritage with industry, growth and innovation is still very much a focus of today.

At a creative industries business event hosted by SEMLEP on 2nd May, we looked at how a sharper focus on the creative industries sector can help make growth inclusive for all our communities.  Being hosted at the UK Centre for Carnival Arts in Luton, provided an inspirational backdrop for the business conference.

Guest speaker, South East Arts Council Director Hedley Swain, suggests that we are in a golden age for high quality arts, culture and heritage. “It weaves it way through British culture, communities and our economy in a positive way but,” he warns, “it’s fragile. The South East Midlands is blessed with some great arts and cultural assets, supported by investment from SEMLEP but we must plan well for our smaller places and planned new towns.”

Through the emerging Local Industrial Strategy SEMLEP, responsible for steering and promoting economic growth in South East Midlands economic area is tackling this head on. Together with capital investments made through the Local Growth Fund, we are  identifying actions to enhance and harness the potential of the creative industries today, rooting the opportunities to help create local jobs and the vibrant places we want to see for the future.

Luton, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale in the SEMLEP area are recognised by NESTA as hot-spots for creative employment and growth potential in the creative industries sector. Learning from best practice, listening to business and responding to the drivers and challenges faced by the creative industries is crucial.

Marie Kirbyshaw, Chief Executive of Luton Culture Trust, offers a fundamental overhaul to the way we approach creativity and talks about how to develop a ‘creative ecology’ that contributes to the economy.

During the conference, speakers and delegates raised three core areas that we should tackle to support success:  

  1. Reputation and access
    • Creative careers – in all forms - have reputational issues that we must tackle head on if we’re to maintain our position as global leaders in innovation. 
    • Creative skills and talents are fundamental to ideas and problem solving.  These skills are essential for all disciplines and all industries.  
    • Inclusiveness must be at the heart of what we do, recognising the value and talents of everyone who contributes or wants to participate. We must ensure access to people of all ages, people with disabilities, different cultures and backgrounds. 
  2. Skills
    • Our education curriculum is slowly losing creative subjects. This will have a detrimental affect to the business and careers of the future. Business already report that they struggle to find skilled people locally, particularly young people, with the creative attributes they need.  As technology progresses at the pace it is, this issue will exacerbate.  
    • Engaging particularly with school-age children, and crucially their parents, about creative career prospects is key. We must challenge the myths around creativity being ‘fluffy, art subjects that won’t lead to a paid job’ and we must do it now.
    • We must get more ‘relevant’ creative industries role models to engage with young people, schools and colleges to help students relate to the real world of work opportunities.
  3. Opportunities and progress
    • We need to better inform people about the wide range of opportunities for local careers and help people embrace their chosen career.  
    • We should challenge organisational culture, particularly with employment practices by placing more emphasis on people’s capabilities and attributes such as confidence and resilience which we know are enhanced by participating in creative subjects.
    • We need to create the space for creative people to learn and support each other and grow their business, affordably.
    • We need long term investment and enhance the entrepreneurial environment to support continued innovation, productivity and growth in the sector.

The Government recognises the contribution that creative industries make to the economy. This is shown through the commitment with the Creative Industries Sector Deal and the funded programmes that are made possible through this; such as the Creative Careers Programme and the recently launched DCMS Connected Growth policy paper which acts as a manual for places working to boost digital, cultural and social connectivity. The drivers for change however, is led locally and we all have a role to make this happen.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, of course, was housed in a bespoke glass and iron conservatory, the ‘Crystal Palace’. In Victoria we’re reminded that the palace design and engineering is inspired from the intricate detail of the Victoria Amazonica Waterlily – yet another true example of the intrinsic link between creativity and industry.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can thank the ‘dreamer’ Prince Albert and the people he surrounded himself by for many of the cultural and arts assets we have. We are now responsible for our creative future.

SEMLEP is one of the three trailblazer areas for Local Industrial Strategies, due to be published later this Spring. 


Event speakers included:

Andrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture

Dr Ann Limb, CBE DL, SEMLEP's Cultural Ambassador

Hedley Swain, Area Director – South East, Arts Council England

Marie Kirbyshaw, Chief Executive, Luton Culture

Michaela Nutt, Cultural Enabler, Luton Borough Council

Paul Andrews, Founder, Andrews UK Ltd

Robert West, Programme Director, Culture and Creative Skills

Tola Dabiri, Managing Director, UK Centre for Carnival Arts

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