Published date 30 June 2021

Metro Mayor says “the show must go on” and announces more support for creative businesses and freelancers

Dan Norris with creative freelancers

Metro Mayor Dan Norris is promising more help for creative businesses and freelancers with the launch of a new support programme to help them recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The Creative Sector Growth Programme aims to support recovery by working with creative businesses and freelancers to help them improve their business’s resilience.

It will offer support including:

  • £3,000 of professional expertise (mentoring, coaching and/or consultancy)
  • A series of peer group sessions which will bring groups of 10 businesses together regularly to address their shared challenges and learn from each other.
  • access to workshops and training delivered by Watershed.

Mayor Dan Norris met Clare Reddington, Watershed’s CEO, and took a tour around the Watershed building to learn more about the kinds of creative businesses and freelancers that will benefit from the new programme.

Dan said: “Creativity and culture runs through our region’s veins – it really is the lifeblood of the West of England and is part of what makes us special and world-beating. But people working in this sector have been hard-hit by the pandemic. That’s why I’m stepping up to make sure that our fantastic freelancers get the support they need to get back on their feet. I’m urging our region’s creatives to apply for this new scheme so that we can work together to support their recovery.”

Applications to join the Creative Sector Growth Programme are open from now until Monday 26 July. It will help up to 120 creative businesses and freelancers to review their business plans and explore new business opportunities.

Clare Reddington, CEO at Watershed, said: “We are thrilled to bring our distinctive approach to creative business development to the West of England Combined Authority again, following our work with them on the Creative Scale Up programme last year. We will be working directly with 120 companies over the next year to deliver training and peer to peer sessions. Watershed’s approach to creative business development puts creative founders and their ways of making business grow at the core of what we do, building capabilities that last. We are delighted to be working with Gill Wildman and Mark Leaver who will design and deliver this programme with a team of experts, supporting the region’s creative brilliance.”

The Creative Sector Growth Programme runs until March 2022 and each business and freelancer on the programme will be part of a cohort receiving a minimum of six months intensive business support. For details of how to apply, please visit the West of England Growth Hub.

The Metro Mayor was also shown ‘Heart of Lightness’ – a series of illustrations and a poem on the Watershed building by artist Lucy Turner commissioned with support from Arts Council England to help animate Watershed’s new outdoor bar, Undershed. Lucy Turner is one of the many young people to benefit from the West of England Combined Authority’s Creative Workforce for the Future scheme, led by the University of the West of England and Watershed.

The Creative Sector Growth Programme comes on the back of last week’s decision by the Combined Authority’s Committee to invest an immediate additional £1 million targeted at freelancers and creative businesses.

It also builds on the success of the Combined Authority’s Creative Scale Up pilot programme – which has already helped around 60 creative businesses across the region to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic.

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