What are the ‘Creative Industries’ and do I have to be creative to work in them?

If you check out the new Creative Industries Radar (2020) report from the UK’s Policy and Evidence Centre led by Nesta you will learn two really important things about these industries: 1) they are everywhere in the UK and come in range of sizes and shapes and 2) you do not have to be creative to work in them. Other countries will have similar maps of their creative industries (if they are on the ball!), but the UK is widely considered to be an engine for growth and the origin story of creative industries. From Shakespeare to Sonic the Hedgehog, both of which were developed in Warwickshire, the creative industries are still headed for a surge, even during the pandemic as live events accelerated their online presence. It’s one of the reasons why Warwick launched its BA Media and Creative Industries in 2020 and why we have four media, cultural and creative industries Masters’ programmes in the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies. So, if you want to re-direct your career into these industries after graduation look no further than your own university for mastering your creative thinking, managing creativity or developing a creative business. 

Where and what are creative industries? 

Previous research in 2016 has found that creative industries cluster together to create an ecosystem, usually around major cities and towns but sometimes spread out into micro-clusters in rural or coastal areas. A combination of tax breaks, local government enterprise initiatives, nearby universities and excellent wifi will mean that creative people and those who like to work with creative people value ‘a sense of place’ and a sense of freedom to be themselves and to experiment.  

Therefore, if you want to work in the creative industries (defined as film, television, theatre, the arts, gaming, animation, broadcasting, content production, design, illustration, advertising/marketing, photography, publishing, crafts, museums, galleries and libraries for example), then you need to know that different parts of the UK are known for different forms of creativity. For example, Bristol has a big animation cluster, as well as credentials in natural history film and television; Dundee and Leamington Spa are famous for their games industries; Manchester, Leeds, London have strong broadcast media clusters, and there is a great deal of theatre, arts and museums and galleries in UK smaller towns and coastal areas such as Brighton, Cornwall and Aberystwyth. Never assume London is the ONLY place to be creative.

What kind of person works in the creative industries? 

The obvious but wrong answer to this is ‘a creative person’. Does a passion for creative work, space and time to think, live, collaborate and develop ideas in teams appeal to you? If it does, and most people would say yes, then a creative industry might be where you would flourish. Would you like to be more autonomous, self-initiating and entrepreneurial, possibly even start your own creative business? Then all the evidence suggests that those who work in the creative industries share these features. However, the creative industries are not only for the free spirited. There are many roles in the supply chain of creativity (intellectual property, production management, marketing, finance and procurement for example) that require people who want to work adjacent to creativity and support the growth of these industries but with less experimentation in their own work life. Sometimes those ‘non-creative’ roles can be a very good way of developing the sector knowledge and contacts you will need to pursue a more creative position further down the line. These are growing industries with over 2 million jobs in the UK and 75% of these are outside the capital. There is bound to be a job that would suit you. 

Would you like to develop your career in the creative industries after graduation? 

You may have been told that you need to follow your passion or pursue your dreams – but sometimes you will need to take on other related para-creative jobs to keep the dream alive. The diversification of the work you do is important and it’s rarely a linear path into or through the creative industries. This requires a willingness to diversify in terms of work, career directions, adapt and develop skills. Being adaptable and proactive in seeking opportunities to learn and gain new or update skills is key.

This is nothing to be ashamed of, actually even the most successful creative professionals will have a ‘portfolio’ career where they work across different projects and contracts to cross subsidise the work they really want to do. This means start developing your portfolio early perhaps even a creative portfolio. Moreover, being in a creative-adjacent role puts you in the best place to find the next creative job. Building your own support network (former classmates and tutors, co-workers) will help you to make smart decisions about this.

Of course, you could join one of our Masters’ programmes mentioned above, but if you want to get into the creative industries then research those in your regions or the regions you are prepared to live and work in. Understand the job roles, the job quality and how long people stay in those roles before moving on and developing professionally. Connect with incubators, we have one in Leamington Spa at 1 Mill Street. Develop the strategic skills needed (communication, numeracy, digital skills, collaborative skills) and challenge these industries to be more diverse and inclusive, so ensure you are connected to as many networks as possible (online and offline). Get a ‘feel’ for these industries through work experience, turning up early and being reliable, ready, and quick to respond to the new challenges and opportunities that ha​ve landed at your feet that morning.

Once you have a bit of experience, be your own ‘local’ talent pool – establish yourself and those you know and can rely on for creative working as a small network of creative collaborators that businesses can see and draw upon. Endorsements, testimonies and references of your good work will create value as others begin to value your creative work.