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Creative Workforce for the Future

by Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt

In 2017 the Go West report into Bristol’s television and Film industries identified that only 2.6% of freelancers in the industry identified as Black and Minority Ethnic. Other national reports from bodies like The Work Foundation and the Creative Industries Federation have highlighted the lack of diversity in the creative and cultural workforce. This lack of diversity not only excludes talented young people from pursuing a career in the creative sector, it impoverishes the range and depth of the content that is made.

To tackle this inequality and provide new opportunities for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic and/or disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, Bristol+Bath Creative R+D and partners are thrilled to launch Creative Workforce for the Future, a new programme with investment from the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the European Social Fund (ESF).  

Creative Workforce for the Future will develop industry employment practices embracing inclusion and diversity as an asset, and nurture young talent from under-represented groups to gain the experience required to sustain a creative career. A key aspect of the programme is supporting creative SMEs to develop a more inclusive workforce and practices in the region by undertaking an intensive programme of inclusive professional development.

Working with a range of small to medium sized (SME) creative companies in the West of England as well as six cultural organisations, Creative Workforce for the Future will also offer paid placements to talented 18-30 year-olds who are currently underrepresented in the creative industries - in particular people from black, Asian, minority ethnic and/or disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

It builds on and expands our work on Network for Creative Enterprise led by the University of the West of England and Watershed, with hubs including The Guild Bath, Knowle West Media Centre, Spike Island, and Rife Magazine at Watershed, who are joined by new hubs Bristol City Council’s Bristol Museums and Creative Youth Network and support the development of our talented trainees.

Building a stronger cluster

Bristol+Bath Creative R+D is committed to supporting the region’s creative companies to become more successful. To do this, we need to understand what creative people at all stages of their business are passionate about, what drives their work, and what they need to succeed.

Through projects like REACT, Rife and Network for Creative Enterprise our partners have developed the skills and methodologies to deliver change by recognising all the complex relationships that form the creative sector, not least the value of the often invisible freelance and microbusiness community that contributes so much to the development of creative economy in our region.

Central to our approach is partnership working: bringing together a range of institutions and organisations to offer the best types of support to creative communities and giving them the help they need to thrive. Creative hubs are key spaces to support, help connect, motivate, broker and provide space for interaction in an increasingly diffuse creative sector.

Network for Creative Enterprise, which completed recently, demonstrated how bringing together a partnership of creative hubs in the region with a bespoke programme of business support could generate extraordinary results for creatives. You can read more about this work and its results in this report: Network for Creative Enterprise report.

Changing the landscape

Although Bristol and Bath have the reputation of being well-networked places, which supports collaboration and creative development, these networks can be very exclusive. The precarious nature of creative work, and a reliance on low-pay or no-pay entry level jobs, generates exclusion in the sector. The cultural and financial capital required for creative people to participate in this semi-formal economy is unevenly distributed and contributes to exclusions based on intersections of gender, ethnicity, class, and sexuality.

Those who can afford to develop careers that rely on low wages or infrequent work are often the ones who can afford to stick it out long enough to establish a sustainable career. This means that these networks often reproduce themselves with the same kinds of people doing the same kind of jobs in the same kinds of places. This is not only inequitable and unjust, it’s also creatively unsustainable. Innovation, creative ideas, cultural breakthroughs and new businesses need diversity – of ideas, experiences, backgrounds, talents and approaches.

Bristol+Bath Creative R+D is dedicated tackling these challenges as one of its core aims. This new programme allows us to strengthen those activities even further. Our collective future needs difference. New markets will need new makers. That's why the Creative Workforce for the Future scheme will focus on bringing new people into the industry.

We are committed to help make this happen. We aim to be radically inclusive in all our work while creating the most innovative and fantastic work in the creative industries. These are not mutually exclusive, and with this programme we look to support our cluster to grow, together.

Are you an SME and interested in joining us on this journey? Read more here and express an interest.


Creative Workforce for the Future is part of the Workforce for the Future programme which has been developed by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to give more young people currently underrepresented in the creative industries the opportunity to work in the sector. It will work with the world-class cluster of creative small and medium-sized businesses – which is concentrated in Bristol and Bath – and reach out to talent across the region. 
The programme is funded by the European Social Fund.