Artists’ studios and other creative workspace are a vital part of a thriving creative sector, but are under increasing pressure in many towns and cities around the country. Mid pandemic there was a need for creative workspace providers to meet to support the sector while it navigated through survival plans. With support from Arts Council England, the network was founded by a group of 6 artist studios based across the UK whose ambition was to create a national, joined up network to ensure the workspace sector was a visible platform and to find its united voice. As Executive Director of Phoenix Art Space, I took the leadership of the network for the first pilot year. What has transpired is the huge once in a lifetime opportunity for the sector to influence local government, planners and other stakeholders who shape town and cities across the UK. Millions of pounds from the Treasury is being allocated to priority places via the High Street Growth funds, Levelling Up and Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones Fund. We are seeing towns and city centres with investment to kickstart ways of retaining and growing creative businesses. The network has positioned itself to reflect our sector and to evidence ways for local authorities to see the value, and the economic and social impact and to ultimately source experienced, knowledgeable end users from the network to run the creative workspaces.
Here in Brighton and Hove, the ABCD Plan for Cultural Recovery, in partnership with the city council, has convened creative organisations and artists to explore the creative spaces in the city as part of a new Space to Grow initiative. There is great pressure for space so it is welcomed that the council, as major landlord and developer in the city is reaching out to understand the current and future needs of the sector. As our landscape changes, new spaces and places emerge and although this contributes to our wider economy it’s also important to protect the assets we already have.
We need to look at the immediate needs particularly linked to recovery, to explore projects we have already and what are the larger ambitions and priorities that we need in the pipeline.
At CWN we will be evidencing the many examples of economic and social impact that workspace delivers in towns and cities. The social impact is often overlooked but now as we see our arts centres, galleries and theatres becoming even more part of the ecosystems of town and cityscapes, the role of the Creative Workspace Network will grow significantly. The network is open to everyone with an interest in workspace provision and is a chance to meet like minds, ignite projects and share experiences.
To keep up to date with our activities visit www.creativeworkspacenetwork.org and follow @creativeworkspacenetwork on Instagram.
Sarah Davies, Creative Workspace Network