Portsmouth’s Creative Businesses surveyed for the first time

Creative individuals and businesses are thriving in Portsmouth, according to the results of the first Creative Census published today, but many still need help to continue to flourish.

The Creative Census Portsmouth project surveyed almost 240 different businesses working in such fields as graphic design, marketing, architecture, fashion, music, film and photography to measure the impact the sector has on the local economy. The report authors hope the results will help inform local policies.

Creative Census Portsmouth is the first survey to give a snapshot of the size, shape and make-up of the city’s creative industries workforce, from large agencies with 100+ staff through to ‘micro’ businesses with people working from home. The survey focused on businesses in Portsmouth but also encouraged businesses based outside to also take part, if over 30% of their work is located in the city.

The creative industries in the UK have grown dramatically in recent years and contribute £8.8m to the UK economy every hour. The census aimed to identify emerging trends in the sector in the city, audit the need for resources and support to help enable to sector to flourish, and identify what, if any, factors were stumbling blocks preventing growth.

The census was organised by Claire Sambrook, a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, and Paul Gonella, co-founder of Strong Island, which describes itself as the city’s cultural resource. Dr Carol Ekinsmyth, principal lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth analysed the information drawn from the census which was
live between May 2015 and January 2016.

The final report (designed by Portsmouth based award winning graphic designer Sam Barclay) is available both in a limited edition book and in digital form from the Creative Census Portsmouth website.

Below are the key Statistics & Points of Analysis From Creative Census Portsmouth Report

  • The Portsmouth Creative Census was live between May 2015 and January 2016. Respondents were elicited through social media and via one to one meetings
  • Of the Nearly 240 businesses were surveyed, 87 per cent were in the PO1-PO6 postcode area.
  • The majority (almost 53%) of these businesses had started up in the past five years with 14% of this group having started in the past year (2015). This shows both a healthy new business formation rate in the city and also accounts to some extent for the size of firms surveyed and their low annual turnover. With increasing age of the business, we would expect increasing turnover and perhaps growth.
  • An interesting aspect of the survey snapshot is the relatively large proportion that had previously graduated from the University of Portsmouth (36%). This could indicate that Portsmouth is an attractive option for its creative graduates and suggests that any initiatives to increase the retention of graduates to the city might well have a positive impact on new business formation in the creative sector.
  • Respondents were asked the “creative industry activities” that their businesses were engaged in. The activities that were reported by 25% of more of the sample were Print Design (27%), Photography (32%), Illustration (25%) and Graphic Design (30%). These are the stand-out activities and are likely to reflect the majority creative activities in Portsmouth as a whole.
  • 43% of businesses earned more in 2014/15 than they had in the previous year, as opposed to 43% who earned the same and only 14% that had earned less. This demonstrates some growth occurring amongst the sample. Indeed, 53% of respondents felt that the current financial year had turned out better than anticipated. In terms of the coming year, 72% of the sample anticipated growth.
  • Despite the preponderance of micro-businesses in the survey, 23% were considering increasing the number of employees in the coming year.
  • There was an obvious need for skills acquisition and development amongst many of the businesses. Just over one half of all respondents (51%) answered “yes” when asked if they felt their businesses required additional skills. Many respondents said there was a need for more local short courses to meet the needs of the local creative economy.
  • Two thirds said they needed greater resources, with a large number asking for studio space that was affordable, flexible and not restricted to memberships or qualifications. A third highlighted the need for more space in which to exhibit and sell their work, with some saying large public events such as festivals in particular offered a great showcase for their work.
  • There was clear consensus among the survey respondents that there was a need for more centralised support, and a comprehensive ‘go-to’ directory of local creative industry skills and practitioners to enable people to source local skilled labour and to ensure they themselves could be found by others. Many also said they’d like to see local government putting local creatives first when they outsourced work.
  • Those questioned also offered feedback that suggested that in order to build the city’s creative base and the reputation of the city as itself ‘creative’, many said they would like to see a central space in which a wide cross-section of creative workers could meet, work and build their community.

Paul Gonella, co-founder Strong Island said “Working at Strong Island you can’t help but get a sense on the ground that Portsmouth and Southsea is becoming a home for more and more exciting and innovative work produced in the creative industries by new and established individuals, companies and organisations. We wanted to run the Creative Census to, for the first time, look more deeply at what is happening and build a far more definitive picture of the creative sector in our city. The final report has some fascinating statistics and gives us a real snapshot of the city’s creative economy. The analysis and feedback also give a glimpse in to the sector’s possible future growth and vital information, from the creatives themselves, on what they need to make this a bigger, stronger creative city.”

Claire Sambrook, senior lecturer, School of Creative Technologies, University of Portsmouth and creative lead for Hotwalls Studios working with Portsmouth City Council said “The response to the census has been very positive in terms of helping us to better understand the needs of creatives in the city. We hope that the results will add impact to inform decision makers on how we can elevate this sector and give it the platform it deserves. There was an overwhelming need to co-ordinate and have more visible networks across the city that would allow all to celebrate, grow, promote and build upon the passion that already exists.”

Professor Catherine Harper, Dean of the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, said: “The creative census has given us a much clearer insight into the needs of those working locally in the creative sector and how best to support them to ensure the region continues to thrive culturally.

It has also given us an insight into how many of our own graduates remain in Portsmouth. We are committed in helping not only to educate and inspire our students but to retain these talented individuals and work together to establish a sustainable creative sector within the city.”

Cllr Linda Symes, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport at Portsmouth City Council, said: “The retention of graduates and nurturing of local creatives is pivotal to the success of the city. The new Hotwalls studios will see 13 creative spaces opening next month which will add significantly the cultural offer in the city and the ability of graduates and local creatives to flourish.”

The census has been supported by Portsmouth City Council and The University of Portsmouth.

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