Last month, Platform hosted a visit to Stoke-on-Trent by a delegation of creative industries advisers, policy specialists and academics brought together by the Creative Industries Council sub-group on Regions and Clusters.

Here, Platform’s Chair Peter Rudge shares his thoughts on the event.

Revitalising smaller cities

This event was apart of a Creative Industries Council initiative about Revitalising Smaller Cities and I was part of a launch in Coventry last year as part of the City of Culture announcement. The project is about how these smaller cities can leverage sector strengths alongside a recognition of ‘place’ to drive creative business innovation and address the widening gap in prosperity, investment and policy thinking between towns and small cities and larger urban centres.

The idea is to use these visits to inform national policy on innovation, creative industries and uneven development.

I was keen to make sure the focus for the day was very much on the digital creative industries, Platform and our outstanding member businesses, to ensure we showed that there was more to Stoke-on-Trent than ceramics. Indeed, it was vital to make the point that confluence of technology and creative industries that characterises the screen industries is really where growth can come from in these regions. The interface between the creative industries and the fourth industrial revolution is how that uneven development can most successfully be addressed.

Lessons to be learnt

I was in Pittsburgh last year, speaking at the Create Festival – a mash up of digital and creative thought leaders organised by the Pittsburgh Technology Council. It’s a driver of where Pittsburgh is heading and indicative of how they refocused their thinking as a city. The parallels with Stoke were noticeable. Pittsburgh was a steel town, a powerhouse of American industry until the inevitable collapse of traditional industry and all the economic and social problems that go with it. Although, the city had the foresight and leadership to not hang on to the past but double-down on its future – as a creative, digital and entrepreneurial city. It’s now thriving.

There’s a lesson there for what we are trying to do in Stoke and the importance to that journey of bringing together such an important and influential group to the city cannot be overstated. Platform has highlighted the talents we have in the city, in a sector that is driving not just the UK economy but rapidly becoming a global force for inclusive growth.

Moving forward

We have a long way to go however. Although the visit showed the real strengths we have in the sector, in the close link with higher education in the city and in the desire to make this a success. There is a lot of work to do in putting the digital creative industries front and centre in the city region. Greater collaboration, more joined up thinking across the major stakeholders and real commitment to seeing creative transformation through are all areas that need work. The city has a proud heritage of creativity, disruption and innovation – lets not stop now.

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