The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is launching a new business support programme for businesses and individuals working in the creative industries, as part of its Regional Recovery Plan.
The programme is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) working in the creative industries, including creative freelancers, that require support as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The sector specific business support programme is designed to build resilience and support change in response to Covid-19. It will offer support for individuals and management teams to reformulate operating and financial models and business plans through mentoring, peer networks and training and workshops.
There will also be grants for creative projects that support recovery and resilience. A grant fund for creative freelancers will give self-employed people the opportunity to become more resilient by developing their own creative product, practice or service, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. A grant fund for creative businesses will fund creative projects that support recovery and resilience, employ freelance creatives, engage local communities and advance diversity and inclusion.
Grants will range from £1,000 to £3,000 for freelancers and £5,000 to £10,000 for businesses.
Regional Mayor Tim Bowles said: “Our cultural and creative industries really are the soul of the West of England and are an important contributor to our wider economy. As we secure our recovery from the impact of Covid-19, this much-needed support will help ensure that our creative businesses can continue to provide exciting and engaging jobs, attract new commercial opportunities and help ensure the West of England remains an exciting and vibrant place to live and work.”
The business support programme has been designed in consultation with members of the creative and cultural sector, with a focus on recovery from the pandemic and the priorities of inclusivity, diversity and community engagement.
The programme also fits with WECA’s ambitions to establish a West of England Cultural Compact, an initiative jointly funded with Arts Council England. This will involve the creation of a new strategic cultural partnership which will lead on the development of a Cultural Strategy and new activities to help increase investment across the creative and cultural sectors in region.
Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, West of England LEP board member and interim chair of the Cultural Compact, said: “Culture is part of our DNA in the West of England, and so many of us value it and earn our livings from it. The pandemic has highlighted our need for culture as a key part of our recovery, and the Cultural Compact will help us to bring this about as a region.”
WECA will also be running the fourth cohort of its successful Creative Scale Up programme, which is already providing almost 60 creative businesses with online peer and mentoring support to help them respond to the impact of Covid-19.
Since joining the programme in January 2020, Bristol-based independent development studio and games consultancy Auroch Digital has secured a new publishing deal and taken on 15 new members of staff.
Dr Tomas Rawlings, Chief Executive of Auroch Digital, said: “The Creative Scale Up programme, particularly the mentoring process, was great – we were able to pick mentors targeting specific needs we have. We got direct support with business questions as they arose and that helped us deal with them and move forward.
“As a result, we’ve been able to advance some key areas of the company. We’ve landed one big publishing deal for a new IP game and are circling a second big project, and that mentoring advice has been part of the mix of positives getting us there. Information provided by the Creative Scale Up team also led us to a UWE Digital Innovation Fund grant.”
Creative businesses wanting to find out more about the new business support programme, grant funds and the Creative Scale Up scheme should visit WECA’s Growth Hub page.
The Culture and Creative Industry Business Support Programme and grant funds are a key part of the West of England Recovery Taskforce’s regional action plan to protect and secure jobs, creating opportunities for all residents to share in the recovery. As part of this, WECA’s Together West of England campaign is connecting businesses with the support and guidance they need to adapt, build resilience and prepare for the future, as well as helping residents to access new skills, training and employment opportunities.
Through the West of England Growth Hub businesses of any size in the West of England can access free information and guidance on a variety of issues including workforce planning, HR advice and guidance, employability support, training and skills development and coaching.