More than just tin-foil: A creative hub in Aberystwyth

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, these identical studios were built in an effort to sustain Aberystwyth as a creative hub for workers in the creative industries. Greenweeds Web Design are current residents in the studio located on the University campus. The idea of these studios is to create a “stimulating environment to realise economic and creative potential” (Aberystwyth Arts Centre). This advocates a clustering approach that encourages creative production through exchange of ideas and also by virtue the location, access to exhibition and performances spaces at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

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Aberystwyth Arts Centre (VisitWales)

Recent attention has been drawn towards ‘other’ geographies of creative production, looking at the role of rural areas in the success of the creative industries (Harvey et al., 2012). This small scale cluster may not have the same capacity as specific clusters in London or Bristol, but the impact of this is nevertheless important. Jayne (2005: 554) writes that the creative economy demands cooperation between key institutions to “maximise economic, socio-spatial, and cultural impact”. This is evident here through cooperation between Aberystwyth University, the Arts Council of Wales Lottery Fund, regional Government and studio residents. Financial support from these organisations was necessary to kick-start production.

The importance of financial investment should not be understated, however, this does not necessarily result in successful creative production. The networks that these clusters provide are essential. Although the cluster is not focused on one particular product or industry, the opportunities for traded interdependencies still exist, demonstrated by Harvey et al. (2012). Cole (2008) talks about the possibility of stagnation within clusters, however, what this cluster in Aberystwyth can offer is discussions between workers in close proximity that encourage efficient working practices and ensuring products are interesting and relevant.

Take Greenweeds Web Design. Although focusing on individual projects they may benefit from the input of designer, Tim Walley, working in a nearby studio about ways to improve design and to stimulate new ideas. Additionally, Greenweeds can contribute to other studio residents such as Wardens Dramatic Company through aiding with the design of their posters for productions, and Angela Groombridge by assisting with the design of a website that increases the reach of their work.

Aberystwyth claims to be the cultural capital of Wales and boasts the highest books to people ratio in the world! Local politicians had also considered a bid to be the UK’s capital of culture following Hull due to the significant contributions made to the arts and culture scene in Wales and at an international scale. The investment in these studios demonstrates the importance that is attached to the creative industries in the region and the need to develop a hub to encourage and stimulate artists and craft workers to mitigate risks of being unproductive in isolation (Harvey et al., 2012).

References:

Cole, A. (2008) Distant Neighbours: The New Geography of Animated Film Production in Europe, Regional Studies, 42(6): 891-904.

Harvey, D. C., Hawkins, H. and Thomas, N. J. (2012) Thinking creative clusters beyond the city: People, places and networks, Geoforum, 43: 529-539.

Jayne, M. (2005) Creative industries: the regional dimension? Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 23: 537-556.

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