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City Hall is investing £3m to grow the scheme, which has supported 300 cultural organisations and 1,000 jobs through the pandemic.

Fish Island, pictured, is the smallest of London's existing CEZs

Jim Linwood

£3m is being invested to double the size of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZ) scheme.

Originally launched in 2018, CEZ are designed to help communities, artists and businesses enter the creative sector by providing more permanent workspaces, creative skills training, and support for start-ups. 

Six zones already operating across the city have established initiatives ranging from job placements to studio rental relief and a new Masters-level course in business and creativity and leveraged £2.2m in additional funding on an initial £11m investment.


City Hall is seeking expressions of interest for five new CEZ across the capital over the next two years – two in 2021/22 and three in 2022/23 – having already appointed Waltham Forest as a CEZ for the coming year.

The successful boroughs will receive grants of up to £70,000 and access to research and marketing.

Zones will deliver a three-year plan based on four tenets: creating new cultural spaces at below-market rent, offering business support and skills development to improve pathways into the sector, embedding social inclusion and creative production in communities, and developing local plans and policies that support artists.

City Hall said it is looking for proposals that “sustain the core principles of the programme,” including the provision of affordable creative workspaces and strong pro-culture policies. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the funding will jumpstart London’s economic recovery from Covid-19 by boosting the creative industries that are “critically important to the fabric of our city”.

“Support must start at grassroots level, with studio spaces, training and innovation… investing in our city has never been more important.”

 Applications close September 30.

‘Valuable springboard’

Waltham Forest’s Blackhorse Lane has been announced as the first new CEZ, chosen following its year as London Borough of Culture in 2019.

Waltham Forest Council told ArtsProfessional it will invest £600,000 over the next three years in addition to the £70,000 grant.

The money will be used to provide more affordable workspaces and promote the Blackhorse Lane CEZ to creative, cultural, digital and tech businesses that can stimulate ideas for the area.

“We know the value that the arts can bring to an area, not just within its own sector but to the wider local economy,” said Councillor Simon Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Housing Development.

“This funding will go towards strengthening links with local residents to reduce inequalities within the borough.”

Croydon, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Hackney Wick & Fish Island were all awarded CEZ funding in 2018.

Khan said they have been a “valuable springboard” for local cultural organisations, supporting more than 300 cultural businesses and protecting 1,000 sector jobs during the pandemic.

Collectively, the areas have created more than 15,000sqm of permanent creative workspaces since their inception.

Lambeth Council used its funding to launch a borough-wide Affordable Workspace Policy to safeguard hundreds of creative jobs, according to Council Deputy Leader Matthew Bennett.

“Having a Creative Enterprise Zone provided us with a strong evidence base to inform our emergency support for those most in need during the pandemic.”

Development programme

The six existing CEZ are set to collaborate on a new skills programme to improve career prospects for more than 650 Londoners.

It will focus specifically on increasing access to creative jobs for women and local Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. 

Lewisham received £500,000 for its CEZ, put towards business support, careers advice, pre-employability skills support and freelancer network developments.

The council recommends any funding bids to tailor the proposal against the needs identified by the local creative sector.

"You should then align this to the strategic priorities of your local economic recovery plan," a spokesperson commented.

Hounslow CEZ is the largest of the established zones. It used part of its funding to establish Creative Network West, a local community of creatives that encourages peer support and business development opportunities via workshops, networking, and creative opportunities. 

Artist Miguel Galue, who organised Zoom life drawing sessions for the network during the pandemic, said he “really appreciates” being part of the local Hounslow Zone.

“It really makes me feel like I am being part of my community, and I’m very glad to learn and share with other local artists.”