Over 100 people from the South West’s cultural and enterprise sectors were brought together this week at an event hosted by the Real Ideas Organisation to explore new models for a resilient creative sector.

Create Change was attended by creative industry practitioners and social entrepreneurs from across the region who took part in workshop discussions, listened to inspiring social enterprise success stories and put questions to an expert panel which included Chief Executive of Arts Council England, Darren Henley, OBE, as well as RIO CEO Lindsey Hall, local Liskeard Councillor Sally Hawken and social enterprise business leaders Will Coleman, from Golden Tree Productions, Toby Parkin, founder and MD of UKNetWeb and business coach and agile business specialist, Belinda Waldock.

The purpose of the event, held at Liskeard’s Public Hall, was to share ideas, information and expertise and to discuss how to make creative and business ideas work successfully and sustainably. As well as providing useful networking opportunities Create Change also sought to demonstrate what support is out there for social enterprise businesses.

RIO CEO Lindsey Hall said: “Create Change is about developing a strong social enterprise sector; it’s about bringing people together and offering support. We live in challenging times when the creative sector and the arts are perhaps needed more than ever and we need to find new models to move things forward.

“Create Change is about generating new and better creative opportunities and better route ways for young people to move into the creative industries. We want to highlight the assortment of funding and support available that social enterprise businesses can access.”

The event also saw the official launch of The Engine Room, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme offering a broad range of business support designed to help people set up and run their own social enterprise business across Cornwall.

The Engine Room, based in Liskeard, is aimed at social entrepreneurs who are considering setting up their own business and want to make a living as well as making a difference to people’s lives. The project is delivered in partnership by Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, RIO and School for Social Entrepreneurs Cornwall.

Lindsey Hall said:

“We particularly chose Liskeard as a venue for Create Change because the town has a wealth of creative enterprise but is often overlooked in terms of recognition within the arts and cultural sector. We wanted to help create a visibility for Liskeard and South East Cornwall and believe that basing The Engine Room here will also help to achieve that.”

Create Change opened with a film created by Talent Match Cornwall aimed at inspiring the creative sector to think about social enterprise as a business model. Talent Match, a Big Lottery funded project offering employment support for 18-24 year olds, used examples of successful social enterprise businesses across the South West including Column Bakehouse, Software Cornwall and the Real Junk Food Project. Companies featured in the film explained the benefits of being a social enterprise describing a common desire to run a successful business whilst making a difference in the community.

Year 6 Camelford School students performance

Creative interludes were also provided throughout the day by Exim Dance Company, a performance from Camelford Primary School who have achieved the Artsmark certification and even an operatic solo by aspiring professional singer Becky Scamp.

Local social entrepreneurs, supported by RIO as Bridge organisation for Arts Council England, also spoke at the event sharing their success stories and providing an insight into how a social enterprise business works. These included digital company Our Way Tech, a business set up by three young people who create educational and immersive tech experiences; film and photography company Fotonow, who deliver projects to young people and advocate visual culture as a tool for social change and Merlin Glass, a globally successful bespoke glass door knob producer based in Liskeard, who provided an example of how the creative and business sectors can come together effectively.

Carol Moxham, head of accounts, sales and marketing at Merlin Glass, spoke passionately about creativity being the future in business. She said:

“Creativity brings people together and has the power to create real change. I think the success of Merlin Glass shows what can be achieved when creative makers and business minds link up. Although we are enjoying thriving global sales we are proud of our Cornish heritage and intend to stay in Liskeard.”

Carol, Merlin Glass

There was a creative buzz throughout the Create Change event with tables of delegates enjoying lively debate during the workshop activity to explore a project, product or service ideas. Group discussions sought to problem solve issues including applying for funding, linking up with partner agencies as well as how to communicate business ideas and achieve long term sustainability. Feedback from the session was positive with delegates describing it as ‘useful’, ‘insightful’ and ‘constructive’ and provided an opportunity to ‘share ideas and push things forward’.

Create Change then moved on to a panel debate where creative industry and business sector experts answered questions from the floor.

“We were thrilled to have such a great panel to join us at Create Change and were delighted to have Darren Henley from Arts Council England,” said Lindsey Hall.

The ACE Chief Executive opened the Q&A session by thanking RIO for the invitation to attend.

“I firmly believe that the arts and culture thrive beyond the M25; they are really important in places with a rural economy like Cornwall. I made a commitment to regularly visit places outside London when I took the position at the Arts Council and am so pleased to be able to take part in today’s Create Change event,” he said.

Making reference to the UK’s recent EU referendum result, Mr Henley went on to urge Cornwall’s creative sector to stay creative in these times of unprecedented change.

“Quality of ideas is what ACE are looking to invest in and there is no greater champion for investment in the arts,” he added.

A delegate went on to ask how the creative industry could stay optimistic in the face of the current political climate.

Mr Henley replied:

“Local government spending on arts and culture is already under threat and EU funding cuts could be a very real possibility. However, the creative industry needs to be bold in expressing the true nature of how important the arts and culture are in making a real and valuable contribution to society but also the impact they have on the UK’s cultural reputation on the world stage.”

Another question put to the panel asked how it could be made easier for young people to get into the creative industries.

Belinda Waldock, professional business coach and agile business specialist, said she believed there should be an increased link between education and employment for young people.

Darren Henley added:

“Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. We have been working with RIO to get children and young people engaged in the creative sector and make their chances greater for succeeding within the industry.”

Local town councillor for Liskeard, Sally Hawken, responded by saying:

“I think it’s about believing you can, particularly for young people. I think in South East Cornwall we’re not very good at shouting about what we’re good at but perhaps if we did young people would benefit too and see that employment in the creative industries is a real possibility.”

The question of how important business is to artists and creative practitioners was answered first by Toby Parkin, founder and MD of UKNetWeb. He said: “I believe business can provide a route to grow and succeed. Artists and creative practitioners have great ideas that could lay the foundations for a successful business.”

Darren Henley answered by saying:

“I don’t see art and business as sitting separately. Working together can make them more powerful.”

Belinda Waldock added that even in the tech business creative practitioners are important.

“You can’t replicate human creativity. Think about the value of this for businesses that make computer games, for example. If you can find a way to channel creativity you can find a way to make it work in business.”

Will Coleman from Golden Tree Productions also said he no longer saw a distinction between art and business.

“Money makes things happen; it’s the fuel in the tank.”

Sally Hawken, Councillor for Liskeard East and Liskeard Town, Will Coleman, Director of Golden Tree Productions, Lindsey Hall, CEO of Real Ideas Organisation

Other questions from delegates included asking what can be done to encourage children and young people to study arts subjects, with all panellists agreeing that they needed greater value being placed on them, and finally how can Create Change’s conversations could be kept going after the event.

RIO CEO Lindsey Hall said that she hoped the event had succeeded in opening channels of communication between the creative practitioners and industry representatives who attended.

“We need to keep talking to each other and use the resources available to us. Hopefully links have been made today and opportunities for collaboration have been explored.”

Darren Henley concluded:

“Post-Brexit people need to be more resilient in the arts and cultural sector and I believe Cornwall is more than capable of achieving this.”