The creative industries are the fastest growing sector in the UK economy* and a growing number of entrepreneurs are turning self-employed or starting their own businesses to make the most of the growth.
Cultivator, a European funded programme is being rolled out by Redruth based organisation Creative Kernow, specifically to help established and aspiring Cornish creative entrepreneurs develop their skills and grow their businesses.
Cultivator is a rare programme in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly that has secured funding from both the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Since the project delivery started in January 2017 over 650 creative businesses have been benefitting. Cultivator Director Jane Sutherland explained “Cultivator is an innovative project providing tailored support from pre-start individuals through to established SMEs. The fact that the ERDF funded business support programme is directly aligned to the skills programme, which is supported by ESF funding, results in a uniquely integrated programme of skills and business development for the Creative Industries sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”
At the heart of Cultivator is a team of seven well-connected creative business advisors who provide mentoring and coaching to creative entrepreneurs. Through individual meetings, artists and makers receive personalised support to help them move forward with their creative ambition. Silver Sapling a hand-made jewellery business based on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, is one of the businesses who have benefitted from support to help them develop their skills. Silver Sapling owners Ben and Lucy Gerrard said “The grant has enabled us to come to St Austell College to attend an enamelling course, leading us to expand our silver jewellery collection. During the visiting season, we are now running enamelling taster sessions for visitors, diversifying our income avenues.”
Participants highlight the importance of the connections made through the Cultivator network, fostering collaborations. Through Cultivator’s skills development programme educational ceramic studio Brickworks, based in Penryn, raised its outreach and visibility, and supported the training of St Just based ceramicist Lamorna Gore. The result of that collaboration has exceeded Lamorna’s expectations, she explained “I would not be where I am without Cultivator – By supporting my training, Cultivator enabled me to learn new techniques and processes which have taken my work in a direction I never initially imagined”
The programme has already run over a hundred skills development sessions and networking events. Lamorna added “Attending the talk led by Sarah Brittain-Mansbridge massively increased my knowledge and confidence in approaching galleries. As a result my work is now going to be displayed in five contemporary galleries including in Cheltenham and Bristol”.
Connecting people aspiring to work in the creative industries to established businesses is another key outcome of the ESF funded programme. Since 2017, Cultivator skills has supported the placement of over forty interns and helped seven businesses in taking on apprentices ranging from one to two years placement.
Textile designer and print maker Helen Round, based in Mount Edgcumbe has taken on two new full-time apprentices and one intern after engaging with the programme. Helen explained “This is a real cold spot of Cornwall and finding employment here in the creative industries can be really difficult for young people. I feel very proud we have been able to do that through Cultivator.”
Complementing the skills development support, Cultivator also offers targeted investment to help businesses build capacity. Over 250 creative industry businesses have received grants as part of the ERDF funded business support. These have varied in amount from a few hundred pounds to a maximum of £5,000. Following a meeting with her creative business advisor, Helen Round decided to bid for a grant to invest in the purchase of a tunnel dryer. “The tunnel dryer helped us enormously- the production time is now three times quicker, which means we can take up larger orders from inland and overseas.”
Jane Sutherland added ‘Cultivator is a great project to deliver, that has generated amazing benefits for SME creative industries businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Working with teams from our four delivery partners; the University of Plymouth, Real Ideas Organisation, Cornwall College and Business West also makes it a very collaborative project.’
To find out more about Cultivator and the businesses they are supporting visit www.cultivatorcornwall.org.uk
The report, Growing the UK’s Creative Industries