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Creative Collaborations

  • Date: 15 July 2011
  • Artform: None
  • Area: South East
side view of a building with gold metal panels UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Hardish Virk/UKCCA

Creative Collaborations was a formal investment partnership between Arts Council England and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which has transformed the artistic landscape across the East of England. 

The partnership was set up in 2004 to stimulate economic growth through arts and creativity, by developing world-class artistic assets capable of attracting, supporting and retaining talent and enhancing the creative capacity of the economy and communities.

Providing leadership

'The East of England had benefited significantly less from Lottery capital investment than other regions and we wanted to achieve a step change,' explains Rachel Drury, Arts Council England.

'We felt EEDA would be the best partner to help us achieve our ambitions. They recognised the value of the arts and creative economy to the region and agreed to work with us.'

EEDA's involvement was crucial too. They brought in vital knowledge and expertise and gave the partnership extra credibility with non-arts partners, including local authorities.

'EEDA helped us position the arts as drivers for economic growth, and together, with the arts organisations, we were able to develop irresistible propositions for investors,' adds Rachel.

The result was a shared prospectus for growth, a strategic investment programme to develop a £110 million portfolio of world class cultural assets across the region.

Arts Council leadership at every level was key to keeping things on track and ensuring the full potential of the plans was achieved.

Rachel adds: 'We've been really active in brokering senior level relations to get local authorities and other partners on board, overcome barriers and secure funding. We worked closely with the arts organisations to make sure they got the specialist advice they needed from those partners.'

Arts Council and EEDA's joint investment of £42.5 million attracted £67.5 million from other organisations.

Creating world class arts centres of excellence

Each of the new arts spaces has a growing national and international reputation for world-class activity. They attract the best people in their fields and gives local communities access to high quality events, exhibitions and opportunities to take part.

  • Wysing Arts Centre in Bourn has won an architectural award and gained national attention for its work in helping artists to innovate
  • Metal develops arts projects that influence how people live, and reached over 25,000 people in its first year in Southend-on-Sea
  • Luton's UK Centre for Carnival Arts, which won a 2011 RIBA award for its architectural design, is the UK's first dedicated centre for carnival arts, where people can learn skills from the world's best carnival artists
  • the new Creative Campus at Aldeburgh Music is a place of energy and inspiration for music and the arts, supporting the most talented musicians from all over the world
  • the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich is home to DanceEast and a centre of excellence for anyone wanting to experience dance
  • firstsite in Colchester, due to open its doors in September 2011, is an iconic landmark gallery, which will host original and accessible exhibitions
  • the High House Production Park in Purfleet, which won three awards at the RICS East of England Awards, is the home of the Royal Opera House Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop and in 2012 will become the home of the National Skills Academy. The park is set to become a UK centre of excellence for technical and backstage skills for the performing arts and live music industries

Making a difference to communities

The investment programme is delivering a strong return in cultural, social and economic terms:

  • it has led to a greater level of cultural ambition within communities and across the East of England
  • facilities are attracting new audiences, young people and people from Black and minority ethnic communities
  • educational and outreach programmes are reaching thousands more people than before, especially in deprived areas
  • volunteering numbers have been transformed
  • local businesses report increases in civic pride, land values and their ability to attract skilled people
  • new jobs have been created
  • the visitor economy has benefited

Building a sustainable arts infrastructure

The partnership between the Arts Council and EEDA has helped build local authorities' commitment to the arts as a serious player in the economy of their areas and the wider region:

  • local partners have been encouraged to be the public face of projects and to champion success
  • the Board of Regional Cities East - chief executives and elected members from Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Southend, Luton and Peterborough - champions the arts and culture as a central plank of its remit
  • four of the above local authorities got involved in bidding for UK City of Culture
  • Luton Borough Council has identified carnival as the unique selling point in its application for city status
  • Vivacity, Peterborough's culture and leisure trust, is working in partnership with Peterborough City Council to strengthen arts delivery in the city