We are thrilled that Arts Council England has just announced that we have been successful in applying to the Creative Local Growth Fund. Watershed will receive £500,000 to work with the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and a consortium of leading arts and cultural organisations - UWE, Spike Island, Knowle West Media Centre, The Guild Bath and the Pervasive Media Studio to develop the Regional Arts Incubation Network (RAIN).
RAIN will increase the contribution that the arts and culture sector make to the creative economy by developing the entrepreneurial capacity of artists and creative practitioners through a significant package of tailored incubation and business support.
Bristol, Bath and the surrounding areas are buzzing with talented people and creative ideas. With a diverse, unorthodox cultural scene, a varied built environment, countryside on the doorstep, excellent universities, and world leading companies the West of England is increasingly recognised as a brilliant place to live, work and play. Artists grow up in, are educated by and move to the region in increasing numbers, they are the lifeblood of our thriving creative sector. And the creative economy is an increasingly important and significant contributor to both local and national economy.
When provided with bespoke support, these artists are able to develop into brilliant and productive new enterprises that contribute hugely to both cultural diversity and the local economy. There are many examples of where early access to supportive space, industry advice, creative input, market testing and a community of peers has strengthened a fledgling entrepreneur, equipping them to take calculated risks and grow. This nurturing leads to companies like Sensible Object, Colourstory and Reach Robotics who are emerging from the local ecology to both critical acclaim and commercial success. However, support for potential cultural entrepreneurs is often fragmented and geographically inconsistent, leading some to limit their ambition or move away. RAIN will address this gap and encourage talented people to realise their potential in our region which has just been named the best in which to run your own business.
The RAIN project is a partnership between Watershed, UWE Bristol, KWMC, Spike Island and The Guild, Bath and a network that stretches out across the four local authorities to include emerging areas of expertise (we are working closely with Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, North Somerset Council, Bath Spa University, the Bristol SETsquared Centre & Engine Shed) - we have a shared approach to supporting new talent but distinct resources and experience. Together we have a programme of residencies, research, expert consultancy and workshops that will match the best ideas to the most appropriate provision. Through networked support, our aim is to champion creative talent wherever it is found, to nurture artistic potential across sectors and to grow sustainable and resilient businesses.
Dick Penny, Managing Director of Watershed, said:
“I am delighted that Arts Council England is investing in the economic potential of the cultural sector. Growth in the cultural and creative industries relies on a constant supply of talented people with great ideas, often working freelance. RAIN will build on the work of the consortium partners to create an innovative networked incubation approach, developing and growing creative micro enterprises which are often the invisible engine of the creative economy.”
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said:
"This is a project that puts culture at the heart of creative economy growth in the West of England, creating the conditions for businesses to thrive long-term not just survive. Our investment of £500,000 will lever match funding from the ESIF, which will double the benefits and help create more jobs and more businesses, with the research project likely to provide a lasting legacy as evidence of how investment in the creative and cultural sectors brings strong returns to local economies. The Creative Local Growth Fund places arts and culture at the heart of economic growth plans by securing long term partnership between LEPs, the Arts Council and other local partners to support the cultural sector."
Read more about the awards.