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Creative Sector Growth Programme

Posted on Mon 20 Sept 2021

Watershed, in collaboration with Upstarter and Mark Leaver Consulting, is delivering a training programme for creative businesses at very early and growth stages.

On behalf of the West of England Combined Authority, Watershed is delivering a programme of training for creative businesses at very early and growth stages of their development. This programme follows on from the inaugural Creative Scale Up pilot programme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Watershed has developed creative technology ideas into businesses through Pervasive Media Studio for the past 10 years. From Sandboxes, to Network for Creative Enterprise, SWCTN and Bristol+Bath Creative R+D we have supported hundreds of companies in Bristol and beyond; connecting them to each other and to brilliant talent through Creative Workforce for the Future and Rife. This programme takes that expertise into a new collaboration with Gill Wildman (Upstarter) and Mark Leaver  to meet creative companies where they are - with a programme developed specifically for their needs and aims.

Gill Wildman's background is in innovation, strategic design and bringing new products and services to market. She has consulted for corporate clients such as BBC, Nokia, Microsoft, Oculus and many others, and brings this experience plus a design-led approach to business development. She has worked at the UK Design Council developing new work around design and startups. She has designed and taught new programmes with some great students at Hyper Island, Carnegie Mellon University, Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee.

Mark Leaver is an independent consultant concentrating on the development of projects combining creative media and digital technologies, with a specific focus on making strategic connections to international markets. A senior manager and producer with 25+ years experience across the creative and media industries, working in both commercial business and public sector, two key themes have categorised his career: the combination of content and emerging digital technologies; and the connection of creative business to international markets. 

Jo Lansdowne, Executive Producer of Pervasive Media Studio says

"We are delighted to be working with Gill and Mark on this programme. They really understand that creative businesses are motivated by more than profit, and support companies to explore their value alongside their values. Even if you think business development isn't for you, we'd love you to talk to us about what the programme might have to offer."

The team

Gill Wildman and Mark Leaver are the core project team, supported by Briony Phillips on the investment landscape and Melissa Blackburn as producer. They are joined by additional specialists and experts to deliver targeted training workshops. Mark, Gill and Briony will also run peer to peer groups, small group discussions based around specific themes and informed by the needs of the group that week. We will also introduce experienced founders with a series of inspiring talks.

The Creative Sector Growth Programme will support a maximum of 120 creative businesses and freelancers to reformulate their operating and financial models, explore new business opportunities and review business plans in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme is aimed at businesses and freelancers across all sectors of the creative industries and all ownership types, with a focus on improving business resilience and supporting recovery.

The programme will offer creative small and medium sized businesses and freelancers in the West of England access to sector specific support including:

  • £3,000 of professional sector specific expertise (mentoring, coaching and/or consultancy),
  • A dedicated Peer Support Programme including a minimum of six facilitated peer group sessions 
  • Access to workshops and training.

The facilitated peer sessions will bring cohorts/groups of 10 businesses together, regularly, to address shared challenges of recovery and building resilience whilst learning collectively from each other.

Watch the video, below, to find out how Creative Scale Up has benefitted local businesses.