Why creative businesses should stick together

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And just as there are key parts of the creative process that can benefit from the whole team being in the same room together, there are many benefits of likeminded businesses forming a creative cluster for mutual benefit.
“Many of my team, clients and neighbours have expressed how much they enjoy being part of a bigger community,” adds Austin, and Ingall agrees: “The area is buzzing, and the history of heritage and culture all help create a really dynamic environment in which to work.”

“There was a large gap in the market in terms of large boutique post facilities in the city centre,” explains MD Paul Austin. “So, we wanted to be in town rather than out at MediaCityUK – and knew instantly that Enterprise City would be the perfect natural home.”
Whichever camp you’re in, chances are you will have weighed up the pros and cons of having physical studio space – and in particular, how to maximise its unique benefits.
But the real lasting benefits of being part of a creative cluster come from mutual support in a professional capacity. “Refer people to the services of others in your building,” urges Tanswell. “Consider including them in your pitches too.”
Demonstrating the diversity of Enterprise City tenants, Reform Radio is a not-for-profit that uses radio and music to work with young people in need of employment. “We develop the next generation for the radio and artistic industries,” explains Director Jemma Tanswell.

“This rich hiring pool attracts more creative businesses to the area, which further establishes the district and entices yet more talent,” continues Grady. “This cycle creates a vibrant community and ecosystem of creatives and businesses, promoting both individual and organisational growth.”

SPACE FOR SERENDIPITOUS ENCOUNTERS
“We’ve adapted our physical studio and workspaces to be ‘Covid safe’ and continue to help clients create the content they want,” he explains. “The demand is very high and being able to provide safe shared spaces is a real priority.”
A MAGNET FOR THE BEST TALENT
“Treat other enterprises as colleagues, not strangers from other companies,” she advises. “Put on an event in your space to get to know your neighbours. Attend other people’s events. Get involved.” During the pandemic, Reform mastered the ability to record and edit work from across the world – and the team plans to maintain a blended approach moving forward. “Our space is still a real asset, and holding meetings there really helps sell our service,” says Tanswell.
Treat other enterprises as colleagues, not strangers from other companies. Put on an event in your space to get to know your neighbours … get involved
Another key benefit of creative businesses sticking together is that it builds a critical mass of talent, which provides more development opportunities in a virtuous circle.
Another benefit of cluster-based working is the serendipitous encounters that can happen with like-minded creative professionals in a more casual, informal setting. Although the pandemic put the brakes on many such meetups for a while, Austin has seen an encouraging pick-up in recent months.
Ingall still sees plenty of benefits in meeting and working face-to-face in the post-Covid world – whether in a dedicated workspace, or more informally in a bar or restaurant.

Although household-name businesses play a big role in attracting interest, Grady adds that it’s in the rich blend of tenants where exciting things happen. “We look for a diverse mix of established tech businesses, early-stage start-ups and ambitious scale-ups,” she explains.

“A creative cluster enables those interested in innovation to form a community and thrive,” explains Tanya Grady, Head of Partnerships at Enterprise City – a new hub for the tech, media and creative industries in Manchester’s St John’s district. “It’s a space for people in the creative industries to live, work and socialise, sharing their vision, expertise and ideas.”
SCOPE TO SHARE OPPORTUNITIES
For Austin, the prospect of forming part of a larger creative community was particularly appealing. “We felt we could bring a lot of value and encourage many of our clients to also set up home here,” he explains. He was proved right, with several collaborators setting up shop in two Enterprise City hubs – the ABC Buildings and Bonded Warehouse.
A creative cluster enables those interested in innovation to form a community and thrive. It’s a space for people in the creative industries to live, work and socialise
Austin reveals that The Farm Group’s clients vary in their preferences, and flexibility is key. “Many are enjoying being totally back in the facility; some want to remain working remotely,” he says. “Others are adopting a more hybrid model. We’ve been able to use our space more effectively, as well as helping our people enjoy a healthier work/life balance.” To reap the full benefits of being part of a creative cluster, Tanswell advises getting involved with the community on as many levels as you can – starting with joining the mailing list to stay across what other tenants are doing and share your own activities too.
SUPPORT FOR DIVERSE NEEDS
“Bumping into each other in some of the amazing local bars and restaurants has really helped,” he says. The Farm Group is set to be even more central to these encounters, with the post-production house set to open its own bar in ABC soon.
DIRECT ACCESS TO POTENTIAL CLIENTS
Having a critical mass of media and tech businesses on the doorstep has also ensured healthy demand for Versa Studios’ TV and film production facilities. “Our close proximity makes working together easier and more effective,” says Executive Director Charlie Ingall. Austin adds that in Farm’s line of work, having seamless fibre connectivity with neighbouring clients is more than just convenient: it’s a solid competitive advantage. “It’s important to ensure facilities are available to serve all areas of the industry,” says Grady. “In this sector, not all work happens at a desk. By accommodating specialist studio spaces for photographers, musicians and more, creative businesses and talent of all kinds will be able to root down and become part of the cluster.”
That requires a correspondingly diverse mix of resources and infrastructure – such as access to support programmes, incubators, accelerators and funding, as well as enough flexibility for organisations to find the right workspace.
As we look to the future of work post-pandemic, most creative businesses fall into one of three categories. You may be desperate to get your team back in to build a face-to-face studio culture again. Perhaps the benefits of virtual collaboration drove you to abandon studio space altogether. Or, like many, you may be excited about the flexibility of the middle-ground, and plan to embrace the hybrid-working future.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
For award-winning post-production house, The Farm Group, the decision to open a studio in Manchester was driven by increased interest in regional production from London-based clients, as well as Channel 4’s northwards move to nearby Leeds.