Hartlepool Council’s Economic Growth Team are responsible for directly growing the Hartlepool economy by supporting new and existing businesses. In addition, the team manage the council’s creative industries managed workspace facility ‘The BIS’ which was developed to specifically address the needs of the growing creative sector in Hartlepool. A research study was commissioned to map out a route to enhance and grow opportunities in the creative economy which would add to the ambitions for the BIS to become ‘the home of creativity’ in Hartlepool.
The creative industries sector is one of the most important (by value and jobs) and one of the fastest growing in the UK. Creative industries have the potential to boost sustainable economic growth and also play a key role in creating local identity, vibrant places and wider opportunities.
Hartlepool is a coastal town situated in Tees Valley which has over 2,500 businesses, the majority of which are micro-enterprises including a number of creative businesses within arts and crafts, design, digital technologies, media, film and photography.
The creative sector in Hartlepool is currently fragmented; a number of informal creative networks already exist but there is a lack of cohesion. Whilst there is a range of business support available through the council and partner organisations this is not necessarily specific to the creative sector and in some cases does not meet its needs.
Hartlepool Council is committed to supporting the growth of its creative industries with the ambition to promote Hartlepool as a creative destination. The BIS was specifically developed to address the needs of the growing creative sector in Hartlepool opening in 2019. However, the council recognises that over the past two to three years and with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed and there is a need for a new approach that delivers the right interventions for the local creative sector.
In order to identify the specific needs of the creative sector in Hartlepool it was agreed that expert consultancy support would be required.
The study would:
- review the scale of the sector locally
- identify business support packages
- review the needs of those businesses based at the BIS
- research careers pathways and educational provisions to developing a pipeline of skills for the sector
- evaluate working relationships with main stakeholders from public, private and non-profit sectors.
Chimera Consulting was commissioned as part of the LGA’s Economic Growth Advisers programme to undertake a comprehensive desk-based study including a consultation exercise with key stakeholders in Hartlepool and wider to collect a broad range of views and opinions.
The consultation consisted of in depth one to one interviews and discussions with local creative businesses, creative sector organisations both local and national, business support organisations, business networking groups, Hartlepool Council’s cultural service and economic development leads, local schools and colleges and third sector organisations.
The main feedback that was reported through these consultations and identified in the desk-based research is the importance of networking in the sector as well as a lack of awareness of available business support packages.
This feedback shaped the recommendations in the report which will then be taken forward by Hartlepool Council with targeted interventions as identified in the study in a set out timeframe.
The final recommendations of the study are categorized into five main areas:
Increasing stakeholder engagement and developing a creative sector consortium/partnership which involves all key stakeholders across the education, community, private, and wider public sector.
- Business support
Addressing business needs and supporting business growth through the creation of various tools and resources including a business support guide, an online directory and talent matching pool. It was also suggested that a dedicated creative sector facilitator should be appointed, and a programme of events developed to encourage creatives to network and showcase their work.
- The BIS
Developing the creative hub, exploring opportunities for small displays for tenants to showcase their goods/work. Developing a programme of events and dedicating a space for students to use in a supervised setting, as well as hosting business awards events to celebrate the sector.
Nurturing talent, highlighting career pathways and workforce development by making use of local alumni to provide career pathway videos, as well as a series of mini video clips covering all aspects of the creative sector. Further suggestions include the provision of work experience prior to moving into self-employment, working with schools, colleges, universities to address skills shortages through bespoke training packages and events that enable local young students and creative talent to be showcased.
- Next steps – delivery
The start of this process will be to invite all stakeholders as identified above to an initial forum where the report findings will be fed back including recommendations for further discussion and development of the creative sector consortium/partnership.
It is envisaged that the study will have a direct impact in setting out a future programme of interventions that will enable Hartlepool Council to support more effectively its creative businesses and the wider creative sector.
This will in turn contribute to the council’s economic targets of growing the town’s economy through direct interventions of support to enable start-ups as well as support the growth and sustainability of creative businesses.
The measurable indicators will be new business start-ups in the creative sector, jobs created in the creative sector and the growth of creative sector businesses.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Sustainability will be achieved by the findings and recommendations of the study being adopted and owned by Hartlepool Council.
In particular this will be taken forward through a delivery plan of interventions that will be developed and agreed based on the recommendations of the study.
It will be the responsibility of the Economic Growth Team to monitor progress and report on outputs achieved to both internal management and committees as well as the proposed external creative/cultural consortium/partnership groups for Hartlepool.
A 12-month evaluation of the interventions and performance against the recommendations identified in the study will be undertaken. This will include a critical review of the positives and negatives in the delivery of interventions and any lessons learned.