Creative Clusters

NESTA has published a new report called Creative Clusters and Innovation mapping the UK’s creative hotspots.

It’s an interesting study exploring the role that creative industries play in local and regional innovation and how they can spur economic development outside the creative sector.

The report is accompanied by an interactive online mapping tool which allows you to investigate the hotspots in more detail.

As well as letting you see if your area offers opportunities to learn from and collaborate with other creative businesses, we also know that some of the most avid arts-attending population segments are likely to work in the creative sector themselves … and here’s where they’re based!

This is an example of how it is sometimes interesting to consider how the arts fits into the wider creative sector. It helps us to expand our horizons and think about how the work that we produce is often the result of a whole range of inputs from different suppliers across the creative sector and beyond.

These networks of businesses often cluster together into areas and this is demonstrated in the mapping tool that NESTA has produced.

It is worth noting that this report is about ‘creative industries’, which encompasses quite a wide definition, including a number of areas of which ‘Music and the performing arts’ is just one.

The study shows that while London does take the lead in terms of creative industries there are a number of other clusters that have been identified across Britain. Also, within London there are a number of sub regional clusters.

It also identifies that while creative industries cluster together, there is also a tendency for these areas to be hotbeds for other related industries such as ‘High Tech’ and ‘Knowledge intensive businesses’.

The creative industries sector has been growing year on year and even with the downturn it is predicted to keep growing over the next 5 years.

Greener Visual Arts

I’ve just come across the Green Visual Arts guide on the GLA website. Interesting for any visual arts gallery to look at if looking after our environment is a priority. This can be found here.

How innovative is your organisation?

We keep hearing that  innovation is critical for success, in both the ‘for’ and the ‘not for’ profit sectors. But what is innovation?, and how innovative is your organisation?

Rather than sitting around thinking up crazy ideas, real innovation is about putting in place the means for systematic creativity.

I’m a firm believer that innovation in the cultural sector shouldn’t only be the preserve of our creative colleagues, but that across all aspects of our organisations we should develop a culture and processes that help us all think creatively. 

I recently went on a course run by our colleagues over at the management centre  (highly recommended) and they have done some really interesting work on this topic.

You can rate how innovate your orgnisation is using  =mc’s free online quiz.  Here at Audiences London we scored well for generating and fostering new ideas, but have work to do when it comes to launching and learning from them… how about your organisation?

Why blog?

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it – I was the AL blogging champion and it’s been longer than I care to remember since I last posted anything. It was a busy autumn! And then a lazy December… And as we all know, the longer you put something off the harder it is to get back on it. But here I am! And hopefully I’ll continue to add lots of useful content in the coming weeks (rather than just  be lazy and tweet it – we’re @audienceslondon on Twitter by the way!).

So why push myself to get blogging again? Well this has been inspired by a couple of clients who have recently been in touch asking “why should I have a blog?”, “how do I write a blog?” and other general good practice questions, so I thought I’d share my experience in the hope to support others going through the blogging journey for the first time:


Why blog? Here are a few reasons why:

It will likely increase traffic to your website – I’ve been monitoring our web traffic through Google Analytics and I’ve certainly seen an increase directly from the blog

It’s a simple and quick search tool – a blog is an ideal place to host links to resources and contact details, whilst also easy to tag subjects and themes of information, e.g. “Diversity” or “Access”

Advocacy – it’s been a great tool for AL to show that we keep an ear to the ground about a number of subjects and work in a broad range of issues within the cultural sector

Power to the people – blogs are designed (in the majority) to enable comments and discussion on posted topics

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Blogs have great SEO (find out why here) this ensures that they appear high in Google and other search engine results pages. If your website is struggling with other sites which have similar content to get that top spot, a blog might just pip them to the post!

Some advice on how to get started:

Start internally – this allows your staff to become familiar with the blog and how it works without feeling that the world is appraising the site before you have much content!

Allow all staff to contribute – everyone has something to say, and most blogs allow multiple users to edit and post. It’s a good tool for internal relations and sharing all the knowledge that you have as a team.

Have a think about what functionality you want – multiple users? Comments? Tag clouds? There are lots of blog platforms out there so before you create your account have a dig around. Here’s a good guide to choosing your blog platform from Jennine at Independent Fashion Bloggers

But don’t forget, blogs are not websites, and can never have the functionality of your own custom built site. If you’re a small operation and don’t have the dollar to  get a website built, then a blog can be a good staring place for an online presence. That’s what I’ve been doing with my theatre company – Longshot Theatre, yes it’s real!

There are lots of sites out there which give advice on starting a blog, but personally I think there’s no better way to learn the ropes than to just get stuck in!

P.S. This is a bad example of a blog in one way – you should keep it short and sweet!!

The great outdoors

Cover photo of Beyond Their Walls reportI attended the launch of the Arts Council’s report “Beyond their walls” this morning, with amazing views from the top of the Southbank Centre this morning. A beautiful morning to look out over the river, and think about the ways in arts and cultural organisations can engage with people in the great outdoors.

“Beyond their walls” shares 10 organisations’ experiences of working in the public realm. The concept of ‘walls’ with respect to public space is not just about organsiations thinking beyond the physical walls of their venues but, as was pointed out this morning, there are many people who do not engage with public spaces and it is these invisible walls that we should be mindful of when stretching our own boundaries.

The Arts Council hope that this document will inspire in organisations the desire to promote audiences and organsiational development, to explore options for collaborative practice, and to be encouraged to have a go!

We have one printed copy of the report here at the Audiences London office, so if you’re popping in at some point, you’re welcome to have a browse. Otherwise, the report can be downloaded from the Arts Council’s website here.

Top tips for charity communications

dsclogoI recently went to the Directory of Social Change’Charity Communications training day, and good value it was too. I attended some very good seminars by ngo media and virtual construction (set up by a very nice chap called Matt Haworth I used to work with in Manchester!).  The sessions were practical, encouraged networking and were definitely thought provoking, I recommend DSC training days very much.

My top tips from the day are:

  1. Always ask for something – whether it’s just a signature or a donation, it never hurts to ask but do try to offer something for free in return!
  2. Keep active – good for SEO and client relationships and trust. Keep your content fresh.
  3. Personalise – when sending communications make sure it’s from a real person that your clients or supporters can interact with should they wish to.
  4. Plan – communications plans do take a LONG time! Never underestimate how many people will want to give you their input, and how hard it will be to get the input from the people you need it from!
  5. Evaluate – always try and track your communications, who they reach, who reads your stuff and what kind of impact it’s having on your business.

The Postcodes Project

postcodesprojectThe other day Hannah was helping me update our database; what fun doing returns from a big mailing, but so important – how annoying is it to be sent two copies of the same thing, and how useless to your organisatsion to send information to the wrong address! It’s important for us to log the borough of companies we’re communicating with for reporting purposes and I do notice that this isn’t always recorded.  So I showed Hannah a tool which can help identify this. In fact I was a bit taken aback to find that I was the only person in the AL team who seems to be using The Museum of London’s Postcodes Project to do this!

If you select the “Places” tab from the menu on this minisite, you can view boroughs by postcode. It’s not fool proof, as some postcodes cross more than one borough, but it is incredibly useful; especially when you’re needing to report on this sort of thing for your funders! There are lots of other fun tools to utilise too, such as themed tours and an oppportunity for you to submit your own stories about your area.