Creative industries sector set to shrink in Coventry and Warwickshire

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The creative industries sector in Coventry and Warwickshire is set to shrink by nearly 50 per cent as the city prepares to become UK City of Culture.

The anticipated contraction of  the sector was revealed in the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s weekly SmartRegion report from May 12-18.

The report features new intelligence gathered from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, the CWLEP Digital and Creative Group, Coventry and Warwickshire Champions, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council.

The report highlights new research carried out by Warwickshire County Council that has revealed the industry is worth £726.5 million to the area’s economy.

But the research also found that the industry is expected to be 46 per cent smaller in the second quarter this year in the area.

The computer consultancy and programming sectors, which combined are worth nearly 71 pent cent of the area’s GVA figure, could be the hardest hit with a 45 per cent decline.

Stratford is expected to suffer the most since, as well as having a high number of computer consultants and programmers, it also has a strong presence in the performing arts sector which could decline by 60 per cent.

Coventry is expected to see the second greatest reduction of people employed in creative industries of nearly 16 per cent due to the high number working in the library and archive activities industry.

In Coventry and Warwickshire, the number of people working in the creative industries is predicted to fall by 13.6 per cent from 14,000 to 12,100.

F13, a network of independent artists and arts organisations in Coventry and Warwickshire, has also reported average losses of £15,000 since social distancing restrictions were imposed across 35 members, which affects 235 freelancers.

Many are home-based and operate on a freelance basis so are not eligible for the Government’s support.

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The CWLEP Growth Hub found decreased sales and bookings are impacting the digital and creative sector the most with trends showing that after funding and financial support, businesses are seeking support for employers and employees and operational activity.

Some companies in the information and communication industries have taken advantage of the crisis and seen opportunities to support businesses by developing apps and teleconferencing systems.

However, marketing companies have seen a loss in sales as their clients switch their investment into their sales channels.

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said Coventry’s time as UK City of Culture 2021 and the Commonwealth Games hosted by Birmingham in 2022 have been recognised as key opportunities for the regional economy particularly for the local digital and creative sector.

He said: “Covid-19 outbreak is a potential long-term strategic and reputational threat and a risk to the standard of delivering these large-scale projects.

“This means it is threatening any growth forecasted for the sector locally and could have wider regional and national implications.

“It is evident that the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures have had a significant impact on job-posting activity across the region and within the county, suggesting that the demand for labour has unsurprisingly become significantly reduced. 

“There is a need for a range of further interventions to support the economic recovery, including additional flexible financial support to enable the many types of businesses in the sector to readjust to new ways of working, and support with innovation and adoption of evolving new technologies.”  

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Mr Humphrey said one of the few bright spots in the creative industries sector was ‘Silicon Spa’ which employs ten per cent of the highly-skilled people involved in the UK’s games development sector.

“More positive is that one of our unique strengths in the creative industries sector within Warwickshire is our gaming industry centred around Leamington Spa, Warwick and Southam,” he said.

“Operations have clearly been impacted by the crisis but this sub-sector has currently been relatively cushioned from the downturn, and indeed sales and use of video games has increased markedly through lockdown, helping support this key cluster.”

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