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A fond farewell

by Simon Moreton

March 31st 2024 sees the close of Bristol+Bath Creative R+D, after nearly six years of work. In that time we invested £3.4M in research and development in the creative sector. We supported over 330 creative companies and freelancers, including making 140 direct investments to their work, totalling £1.6M.

We’ve seen our funded teams make incredible work that has explored access to public space, new ways to produce and share content, reimagined live performance, pioneered new models for international collaboration, and more. You can read about all our funded work here and at the end of this blog you can watch a video sharing some of our highlights.

The programme itself began in 2018, in what was in so many ways a different world. We set out as a group of creative and cultural practitioners, university workers, and researchers, to imagine a better, more inclusive future for the creative sector in our area. We tried to think what we would want our part of the world to look like in 2030, and attempted to design a programme of support for the creative sector that might bring us closer to that vision.

What happened instead changed us. During the lifetime of the programme, we saw the economic, cultural, social, and environmental challenges we had already experienced compounded - and our own response to them transformed - by several overlapping external events; Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued rise of right-wing populism, the ongoing violence of racism which the Black Lives Matter movement brought back to the global stage, and the Climate Emergency.

Although ‘doing things differently’ where people, and not technology, were always at the heart of our funded work, it became even more clear that more 'business as usual innovation' would be disastrous and that we would need to try harder.

The real challenge for us was to evolve Bristol+Bath Creative R+D to a place where we could encourage modes of innovation that sat outside the logics of Big Tech, support working towards a future where the production and consumption of technology is more socially and culturally equitable, and less damaging to the environment. This also involved scrutinising ourselves, and how we worked, from governance structures through to how we operated as teams.

We believe we have made a positive impact on our creative ecosystem, with a legacy of amazing projects, toolkits, and shared learning. It’s not been an easy journey. We’ve made missteps along the way, and done our best to capture and share those in our blogs, and in our written work. You can also read in more detail what we did in our final report

We know that the end of programmes like ours can represent a challenge to our creative ecosystem - especially in the current climate of economic and political uncertainty. However, we’re continuing as partners to work together on a range of projects both new and ongoing, and while this iteration of our work is over, we will continue to do our best to support our community. We’ve included a list below of organisations, programmes, and networks that can support you in your creative journeys.

As we come to a close, I want to take this moment to thank everyone of the team - past and present, both here in UWE Bristol, at Watershed, and at partner universities of Bath, Bath Spa, and Bristol, - who made the project possible.

Most importantly, though, I want to express a deep thanks to the creative practitioners, makers, thinkers, doers, activists, and artists that made this project possible. Without you, there would be no B+B. Your insights, your challenges, your imagination, and your drive to make the world more just, more interesting, more fun, and more progressive, is what drove us; if the future looks like you and your work, then we have reasons to be hopeful.

Simon Moreton

Director Bristol+Bath Creative R+D

Further opportunities

The Pervasive Media Studio is a vibrant community of artists, businesses, thinkers, and makers exploring the intersections between creativity and technology. Sign up for their newsletter to keep up with creative tech and funding news. Attend Open Studio Fridays, watch their wonderful Friday lunchtime talks in person or online, or attend Make Shift, a programme to early career creatives. The space is a collaboration between Watershed, UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol.

Immersive Arts is a new programme led by UWE Bristol and Watershed in collaboration with organisations across the whole of the UK. It will support over 200 UK-based artists and organisations to explore the creative potential of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies. You can register your interest in the programme here.

The Studio, Bath is an award-winning city centre home for enterprise and innovation run by Bath Spa and providing free and paid-for space for micro-businesses, Bath Spa University students, and graduates to work on projects and ideas that focus on creativity and technology. Sign up to their newsletter and attend one of their Connect! events to meet local creatives, businesses and academics.

My World, a major investment in the region's creative sector led by University of Bristol, will be opening a fully augmented production studio in the heart of Bristol in late 2024. The space will contain technologies such as haptic suits, 8K cameras, head mounted displays, LIDAR scanner and a range of production software. Check the My World website for funding, scholarships, equipment and facilities hire, training, and research news.

The Brigstow Institute is the University of Bristol's hub of innovative creative research, pioneering collaborative investigations and nurturing vibrant research communities. They provide funding (often to non-academics), run events, and support networks to help transform ideas into tangible outcomes that make a difference in the world.

CAMERA is the University of Bath's Centre for Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications - keep an eye out for their news about funding and new technical developments.

CREATE Lab at the University of Bath conducts groundbreaking research in the field of human-computer interaction, and exploring the design and evaluation of mobile and ubiquitous technologies

Knowle West Media Centre support people to make positive changes in their lives and communities, using technology and the arts to come up with creative solutions to problems and explore new ways of doing things. Get involved in their Living Lab projects, or their makerspace The Factory.

Black South West Network are the black-led racial justice organisation for the SW, and support Black and minoritized creative businesses and entrepreneurs through a fantastic range of services, events and training.

Rising Arts Agency is run by young creatives 18-30 and continues to ask interesting questions about the creative and cultural sector, working for equity and access for the people they support. More info about their impact here.

The West of England Combined Authority provide support for creative businesses via their Growth Hub, offering training and support programmes.

Tech 4 Good are a community in Bath, Bristol and the South-West driving support for technology for good through bringing people together, sharing knowledge and ideas, matching needs with skills, and creating space together to innovate. Become a member, attend an event, sign up for their newsletter.