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Concept previously backed by Labour will see clusters of creative and cultural activity across the North of England linked up to create a powerful 'economic force'.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Wakefield, is an art gallery with both open-air and indoor exhibition spaces
Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Wakefield, is an art gallery with both open-air and indoor exhibition spaces

People and businesses working in the creative industries across the North of England will be linked up to form a 'creative corridor' network intended to compete with major global cities, it has been announced.

As part of a partnership between Arts Council England (ACE), the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (Creative PEC) and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), a 'prototype' creative corridor model will be established over the next nine months.

The organisations said the concept, initially floated last year by RSA Chief Executive Andy Haldane and Labour Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracey Brabin, will allow them to test ideas and demonstrate the potential of the approach to national and regional stakeholders and policy makers. 


The work to develop a creative corridor will be conducted alongside a ‘Connecting Creative Corridors’ enquiry which will gather evidence and case studies on the idea and will report in March 2024.

It will explore themes around skills, innovation, finance and arts, culture, and heritage to demonstrate how creative corridors can provide the greatest benefits to every part of the network.

The partnership said the work is being conducted to find ways that the UK’s creative industries can achieve the government’s target for them to contribute £50bn and a million new jobs to the UK economy by 2030, as part of the Creative Industries Sector Vision published earlier this year.

Growing jobs and economies

Haldane said: “There is a huge amount of energy in the clusters of creative communities spread across all four corners of the UK. 

"This exciting new collaboration between the RSA, Creative PEC and Arts Council England seeks to unlock that potential, growing jobs and economies; skills and wellbeing; communities and regions. 

"This collaborative approach will explore in detail how the UK’s vibrant and enriching creative corridors can significantly support people, communities, and local economies for the long term.”

Professor Hasan Bakhshi, Director of the Creative PEC, which is co-hosted by the RSA, said its previous research has shown the creative industries are among the most geographically unequal sectors in the UK economy, but individual clusters and micro clusters of creative activity can be found right across the nation. 

"This raises the question of how these fragmented, creative clusters can join-up to create an economic force that can compete with the world’s great creative cities.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of ACE, said: “There’s growing evidence to show that the presence of organisations and individuals who work across the creative and cultural industries sparks new life into towns and cities; building skills, creating new jobs, growing local economies, and improving the lives of the people who live, work and study in these places. 

"This new programme will build on what we’ve learned so far and identify ways of speeding up that growth and reaping the economic benefits.”

Labour backing

The Labour Party has previously backed the idea of a cultural corridor and has said that if it wins the next general election it will seek to work with metro mayors and others to break down barriers so that the creative industries can grow outside their traditional home in London and the South East. 

Speaking at an event in June Tracey Brabin said she envisages a cultural corridor that stretches across Liverpool, Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Northumbria.

"The economic argument is really powerful because people choose somewhere to live for its cultural and creative offer over and above good schools," she said.

"That's why I think that Leeds in particular has one of the highest retention [rates] of students and university graduates in the country, because of its creative offer.

"My job as mayor is to make sure the whole of West Yorkshire can flourish. Culture levels up, and we can prove it with the data.

"Think of a northern cultural corridor that stretches from Liverpool through Manchester through us down South Yorkshire right up to Northumbria. Just think of the power of that. 

"What happens is people join you. People cluster. Channel 4 has proven that this is where the action is, this is where the commissioning is, so this is where companies start to come."

Work to establish the creative corridor prototype will be led by the Creative PEC and RSA.