Creative Connections: Partnering with West London’s creative and cultural industries

There’s a strong appetite and need for Brunel University London and the creative and cultural industries in West London to find innovative ways to work together to power post-Covid recovery, according to a report launched at an on-campus event on 2 November.

‘Creative Connections’ saw more than 100 attendees – staff, students, people from across the London Borough of Hillingdon, and local creatives from industries such as film, TV, games design, PR, publishing, theatre, heritage and music – celebrate the potential of a sector that’s growing at four times the rate of the wider UK economy.

Opening the event, Prof Monica Degen, Urban Cultural Sociology expert at Brunel, spoke about how Britain’s creative and cultural industries are not only something we can be rightly proud of, but also generate billions of pounds of revenue and support millions of jobs. “However, the UK currently faces the greatest challenges in living memory,” she said, ranging from Covid recovery and the ongoing spectre of Brexit to the cost-of-living crisis and a looming recession. “These challenges need creative solutions – and that’s where we all come in.

“Working together, we can offer platforms to inform, engage and entertain stimulating debate, and provide different ways of thinking and out-of-the-box ideas to counter the economic, the socio-political and of course the important environmental challenges that we’re facing.”

Chris Cox – Reader in Games Design, and who shares the directorship with Prof Degen of Brunel’s Creative Industries Hub – explained how creativity is so important because it builds bridges and communities, and joins people together. “As anybody who’s worked on a creative project knows, it doesn’t all happen by a magic fairy delivering creativity dust,” he said. “It happens with hard graft, collaboration and initiative,” and he invited attendees to use the event to make a connection that might lead to their next creative endeavour.

Prof Andrew Jones, Brunel’s Vice-Chancellor and President, and an economic geographer by background, remarked on Brunel’s position in the heart of the West London economy, next to one of the most creative cities on the planet. “When I talk to people in other parts of the world, they’re looking at the opportunity we have in this location,” he said. “In terms of the way the UK economy is going, and the global economy, many of the jobs we will look to for our students are going to be in some way creative, and involved in these industries.”

Prof Jones was followed by the Mayor of Hillingdon, Councillor Becky Haggar, who noted how, after the pandemic, there are dramatic changes within the community, and welcomed how the University is supporting not just its students but also the business and communities across the borough.

Cllr Becky Haggar (wearing mayoral chains of office) and Prof Andrew Jones (right)

After these scene-setting speeches, the ‘Creative Connections’ report was launched by Dr Isobel Ward, Research Fellow for the Creative Industries Hub, who carried out the underpinning research in conjunction with Prof Degen. The research included an analysis of the clustering of the West London creative and cultural sector, and outlined the uneven impacts of the pandemic on its various industries. It also highlighted how the lockdown forced organisations and freelancers to diversify their offering and innovate their working practices. The report involved more than 50 interviews and a survey of employees in this sector, together with Brunel academics working in these areas.

The report identified further cross-cutting concerns that were raised by businesses and practitioners across the range of sectors interviewed. These pressing issues were highlighted as areas that Brunel and the creative and cultural sector could focus on to share knowledge and build collaborative projects together:

  • equality and diversity
  • sustainability
  • skills shortages and recruitment
  • understanding local communities and audiences
  • the need for support networks
  • the value of creativity
  • learning to collaborate in a cross-disciplinary way.

Prizes were also awarded by the Creative Industry Hub in conjunction with Santander for Creative Development awards of £1000. They went to Janet Bulla, Josie Daw and Holly McComish, who will each use the money to further their next creative project. 

Ward and Degen were then joined for a panel discussion by Rachel Tackley, Creative Director of Riverside Studios; by Bill Boler, Partnerships Director at West London Business; and by Prof Geoff Rodgers, Brunel’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Employment. The panel tackled questions from Cox and the audience, including on what the biggest threats, changes and opportunities are for the creative and cultural industries. The event culminated with networking opportunities.

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Left to right: Rachel Tackley, Dr Isobel Ward, Bill Boler, Prof Geoff Rodgers, Prof Monica Degen, Chris Cox

Commenting after the event, Prof Degen said how “Brunel University London is ideally situated to become a ‘thirdspace’ – a space for experimentation where new collaborations and ideas between students, researchers and the creative and cultural sector can be forged and turned into cultural, social or commercial success.

“This networking event was the starting point for the Creative Industries Hub to foster collaborations with the creative and cultural sector to strengthen knowledge transfer, student training and research opportunities.”

Watch our intro video about our Creative Industries Hub

The Creative Industries Hub was set up by Chris Cox and Prof Monica Degen in 2021 to provide a forum to showcase and develop research and training opportunities between Higher Education and the creative and cultural sectors. Get in touch with them at [email protected]

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations

+44 (0)1895 268821
[email protected]

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