Abstract: Networking in the "Creative" Industries: A Longitudinal and Contemporary Analysis of the East Midlands Region

John Wilson


One of the fastest growing sectors of the British economy over the last decade has been the ‘creative' industries. Covering a wide range of interests, from the performing arts through to architecture and digital media, the creative industries have recently been subjected to considerable analysis by governmental bodies at both the national and regional levels. In particular, as well as the studies conducted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, localized studies have been commissioned as a means of improving the flow of information provided to policy-makers when they consider appropriate plans for such a dynamic sector. One of these studies is based at the Nottingham University Business School, where extensive research has been undertaken into the music and digital media industries. Officially entitled "Creative cluster formation: longitudinal and contemporary perspectives on the East Midlands," this project has attracted widespread support from a range of educational, political, and arts-related bodies. While the principal aim of this project is to assess the ways in which creative industry clusters have evolved over the last fifty years, applying a life-cycle model to detect the key stages in this process, the research has produced extensive insights into how firms across the two micro-studies (of music and digital media) interact. The vast majority of the firms included in our research are small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's), leading to the inevitable problems associated with a lack of either resources or time to work on anything other than immediate business issues. At the same time, given the geographical proximity of most of these SME's, a significant proportion of which operate either out of or close to Nottingham's Lace Market area, there is constant personal interaction and dialogue. Our research has consequently focused on the durability of these intra-sectoral links, assessing both the long-term and contemporary perspectives that arise from our work on cluster development. As networking is clearly vital to the way in which these micro-sectors operate, this work provides some fascinating insights into the importance of networking to SME's that often rely substantially on the information gleaned from personal contact. At the same time, there has been a growing demand for assistance from local, regional, and national bodies, whether political or quasi-political, indicating that the established networks have failed to provide all the resources necessary to effective cluster development.