Extra support is available for creative businesses that have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic thanks to the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA’s) Creative Scale Up programme, Metro Mayor Tim Bowles has announced.

The scheme is now providing online peer and mentoring support to help businesses respond to the unique challenges presented by the pandemic, with business resilience being a key topic for the first group of 16 firms.

Recruitment for the next round of the programme is now open, and offers support for firms including:

  • £6,000 grant to spend on mentoring
  • Dedicated peer support network facilitated by Gill Wildman (Watershed Business Development Advisor) and Mark Leaver (Department for International Trade Creative Industries Advisor)
  • Training tailored to the specific business development needs

One of the members of the first cohort, the artist Luke Jerram, explained how the adapted scheme is helping businesses like his in the current climate.

“The Creative Scale Up programme is brilliant; in that it brings arts organisations together – people at a similar stage in their careers and company development – with an opportunity to share best practice and the problems that we’re facing,” said Luke.

“There’s a real sense that we are no longer working in isolation but somehow connected and on the same journey, and we are there to support one another. When the pandemic arrived, we quickly moved from talking about the growth of our companies to thinking about resilience, placing our companies in a kind of long-term holding pattern and how we might need to adapt to survive.

“It’s been amazing to have the support of mentors and the colleagues of the Creative Scale Up programme to share those problems and work through them collectively. It’s been really supportive. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and a sense of us advising one another within the group. It’s been brilliant, especially at a time like this, so I’d highly recommend other creative companies getting involved.”

The training scheme is guided by the participants, and is able to respond to the current and emerging challenges they face due to COVID-19 pandemic. This included a Q&A session with Dick Penny on leading an organisation through difficult times, during which the businesses were able to draw on his valuable experience of leading transformations at Watershed and Bristol Old Vic.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “We rely on our world-renowned creative industries; not just for the amazing content and jobs they create, but for what they add to our sense of identity and for putting our region on the world stage. The firms that are on this programme will be our household names of the future and I want to make sure we help them through these unprecedented and challenging times so they can be part of our economic recovery and renewal.

“By building on the success of this scheme, more of our incredible creative firms can get the support they need.”

Creative businesses wishing to express an interest in joining the Creative Scale Up programme should email creativescaleup@westofengland-ca.gov.uk. The deadline to apply to be part of the next cohort is 31 July.

The first businesses on the West of England Creative Scale Up programme are: Arcadia; Crack Industries, Luke Jerram; Trigger Stuff; Waller and Wood; Cognitive Paths; Knowle West Media Centre (The Factory); Complete Control; Limina Immersive; Auroch Digital; Wardrobe Theatre; Encounters Film Festival, Anagram, Visuable, Stornaway Productions and MAYK.

The Creative Scale Up local steering board features a wealth of industry experience, all of whom are keen to support participants. It also draws on support available from national partners, including the Creative Industries Federation, Arts Council England, Creative England, Scale Up Institute, UK Business Angels Association and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

For more information on the Creative Scale Up programme, please visit: www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/business/creative-scale-up/.

Geraint Evans