Creative industries are key to the UK’s economy. For nearly a decade the fastest-growing part of the economy, the Arts can feed directly into the regeneration and growth of an area; by increasing footfall and visitor spend, utilising unused spaces, offering creative partnerships to businesses and providing training and jobs.
Recently in Medway, England, with the support of the local council, community groups and arts entrepreneurs have been taking over unused premises to set up creative businesses.
This has led to an exciting community of artists with studios in unexpected places, and has allowed arts organisations flexibility to think differently about performance spaces.
Supporting not producing
Medway Council’s Arts Team has made a conscious move in the past few years away from directly delivering and managing arts projects, to focussing on supporting the local cultural sector.
Robyn Goldsmith of the Arts Team says; "The benefit of this is that there’s only one Arts Team, but there are lots of creative practitioners locally who want to deliver projects and activities that the community can engage with. So in supporting as many local artists and organisations as possible, we ensure that there are more diverse opportunities for the public to engage with something cultural. We achieve more when working with local artists."
Her advice to creatives who want to succeed with their own projects is that; "communication and partnership is key. Get out there and talk about your ideas. Never miss an opportunity to network. And listen - be nosy! When you’re meeting people, really try to find out about them and their organisation, find out what makes them tick. If there are ways you can help them to achieve what they want by working together, then your ideas, proposals and potential partnerships can make you more attractive to funders."
Former council building to recording studio
Medway-based musician and BBC’s 'The Voice' Series 3 finalist, Jamie Johnson, recently took over an old council building to test out his idea for an artist space and community recording, rehearsal and performance studio, with the help of local arts charity, Nucleus Arts. The building is due for demolition as part of the planned redevelopment of the area, but currently houses Riverside One Studios.
"We always knew from the start that the building would be knocked down. It was a tester for us to try out a business idea and see if it would work. Which it has done and now we are looking for somewhere else, still locally, that we can move in to."
Johnson’s advice to help someone ‘make it happen’ is that; "working with others is so important, listening to everyone’s ideas and sometimes giving them a try, whether they work or not. The main thing to make it happen, is just do it!"
New arts festival
Keely Augustus set up Lyrici Arts which produces the new twice-yearly Paint The Town Festival in Medway. In partnership with Battersea Arts Centre’s Collaborative Touring Network, Paint The Town aims to bring the some of the best new creative works to surprising venues in the Medway towns.
Lyrici Arts has a focus on diversity and creates partnerships with organisations and individuals, both local and from further afield, to develop diverse arts programmes for community audiences and to provide support and showcase opportunities for talented creatives.
Natalie Clarke, Cultural Events and Festival Producer believes that "regeneration of an area is much bigger than building new houses or adding more infrastructure - to truly regenerate an area is to make the local community proud and excited about where they live. Medway has so many creative people with amazing ideas and projects. By showcasing Medway as this hub of creativity and high quality arts, we feel residents will find a new source of pride."
Her advice to creatives; "Find great people to partner with - people that you like, that you enjoy the company of and who have complementary aims are a good start, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, nobody ever made something that was perfect straight away and people will forgive you for being human."
The advice from both Jamie Johnson and Lyrici Arts is clear: working together helps you achieve more. As Medway Council’s Robyn Goldsmith underlines; "If you have shared reasons for doing what you’re doing, that means you’re likely to gain more strength and support from others as you try to achieve your dreams."