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Creativity blossoms in city
12:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013 in The York Report
York’s creative industries employ 8,000 people and it is the fastest growing sector in the city.
There are 250 creative and media arts businesses and 100 ICT, electronics, software and digital businesses employing another 2,400 people.
Again, the city’s education sector is generating the growth as 5,000 students a year study more than 160 courses in media arts provided by York’s universities and further education colleges.
More than £100 million has been invested in media arts facilities and resources to support the sector by York’s two universities, including in new business premises based on the campus to foster collaboration.
The University of York has York Science Park on its doorstep, with dedicated incubation space for graduate entrepreneurs.
York St John University has also invested £90 million in its city-centre campus in the last decade and its alumni set up a steady stream of creative and digital businesses.
To house these businesses, York St John opened its Phoenix Centre in 2009, which provides affordable space for new creative and IT-based ventures, with access to sectorspecific business support, mentoring and training.
Designworks is another incubation space for start-up businesses in the world of product design, based at York St John University, which also benefits from the university’s Creative Business Office’s business support and the possibility of funding through the university’s Proof of Concept funding scheme.
Despite the universities’ expansion, there is still demand for an additional 9,400 sq metres of property space for creative and digital media companies in York over the next three years, according to property consultancy DTZ, the most significant area of growth.
As a result, City of York Council is intending to create a £1.4 million centre for creative and digital businesses. It had previously hoped to house the centre in the Bonding Warehouse, a property dating back to 1875 which operated as a pub, restaurant and music venue until it closed in 2000.
But the council was faced with demand for three times as much space as the Bonding Warehouse could supply so alternative sites are now being explored. The creation of a dedicated creative and digital centre is expected to create up to 500 jobs and contribute £6.2 million to the city’s economy (GVA).
Young people are nurtured in the industry from a young age, with 68 per cent of York’s schools having achieved the national Arts Mark, compared to just 17 per cent of schools nationally, ensuring York’s children have cultural opportunities of at least ten hours every week.
These vital statistics have led York to apply to UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, for recognition as a City of Media Arts.
York’s creative scene is nurtured with events and opportunities to grow and develop.
Shift Happens, a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) style conference has been held in the city since 2008, organised by city’s innovative Pilot Theatre educational touring theatre company. In 2011 it was replaced by an officially licensed TEDx York, and continues to attract high profile keynote speakers.
Venturefest Yorkshire, an annual exhibition of the region’s home-grown talent in science and technology also enables local businesses to pitch for prizes of tens of thousands of poundsworth of business support and get noticed by angel investors.
The city’s many cultural events also offer the opportunity for local creative businesses to get involved. An annual highlight is Illuminating York, in which light shows and installations are used to show off the city’s unique heritage in a different light.