London celebrations

Creative Connections: partnership with creative and cultural industries in West London

According to a report launched at a campus event on November 2, there is a strong appetite and need for Brunel University London and West London’s creative and cultural industries to find innovative ways to work together to fuel the post-Covid recovery.

‘Creative Connections’ brought together over 100 participants – staff, students, people from across the London Borough of Hillingdon and local creators from industries such as film, television, game design, public relations, publishing, theatre, heritage and music – celebrating the potential of a sector that is growing four times faster than the UK economy as a whole.

Opening of the event, Professor Monica Degen, expert in urban cultural sociology at Brunel, explained that the UK’s creative and cultural industries are not only something we can be justly proud of, but also generate billions of pounds in revenue and support millions of jobs. “However, the UK is currently facing the greatest challenges in living memory,” she said, ranging from the Covid recovery and the lingering specter of Brexit to the cost of living crisis and the an impending recession. “These challenges require creative solutions – and that’s where we all come in.

“Working together, we can offer platforms to inform, engage and entertain stimulating debates, and propose different ways of thinking and original ideas to counter the significant economic, socio-political and of course environmental challenges we face.”

Chris Cox – Reader in Games Design, and who co-leads with Professor Degen of Brunel’s Creative Industries Hub – explained how creativity is so important because it builds bridges and communities and unites people. “As anyone who’s worked on a creative project knows, not everything happens because of some magical fairy delivering creativity dust,” he said. “That happens with hard work, collaboration and initiative,” and he urged attendees to use the event to make a connection that could lead to their next creative endeavor.

Professor Andrew Jones, Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of Brunel and an economic geographer by training, highlighted Brunel’s position at the heart of West London’s economy, next to one of the most creative cities in the planet. “When I talk to people in other parts of the world, they look at the opportunity we have there,” he said. “As far as the UK economy and the global economy are concerned, many of the jobs we will be looking for for our students will be in one way or another creative and involved in those industries.”

Professor Jones was followed by Hillingdon Mayor Councilor Becky Haggar, who noted how post-pandemic there have been dramatic changes within the community, and welcomed how the University supports not only its students, but also businesses and communities in the borough. .

Cllr Becky Haggar (wearing mayor chains) and Professor Andrew Jones (right)

After these stage talks, the “Creative Connections” report was launched by Dr. Isobel Ward, researcher for the Creative Industries Hub, who conducted the underlying research in collaboration with Professor Degen. The research included an analysis of West London’s creative and cultural sector cluster and outlined the uneven impacts of the pandemic on its various industries. He also highlighted how confinement has forced organizations and freelancers to diversify their offer and innovate in their working practices. The report included more than 50 interviews and a survey of employees in this sector, as well as Brunel academics working in these fields.

The report identified other cross-cutting concerns that were raised by companies and practitioners across all industries surveyed. These pressing issues were highlighted as areas that Brunel and the creative and cultural sector could focus on to share knowledge and build collaborative projects together:

  • equality and diversity
  • sustainability
  • skills shortage and recruitment
  • understand local communities and audiences
  • the need for support networks
  • the value of creativity
  • learn to collaborate in an interdisciplinary way.

Prizes have also been awarded by the Creative Industry Hub in conjunction with the £1,000 Santander for Creative Development Prizes. They went to Janet Bulla, Josie Daw and Holly McComish, who will each use the money to pursue their next creative endeavor.

Ward and Degen were then joined for a panel discussion by Rachel Tackley, Creative Director of Riverside Studios; by Bill Boler, Director of Partnerships at West London Business; and by Professor Geoff Rodgers, Brunel’s pro vice-chancellor for business and employment. The panel answered questions from Cox and the audience, including on key threats, changes and opportunities for the creative and cultural industries. The event ended with networking opportunities.


From left to right: Rachel Tackley, Dr Isobel Ward, Bill Boler, Prof Geoff Rodgers, Prof Monica Degen, Chris Cox

Commenting after the event, Professor Degen said that “Brunel University London is ideally placed to become a ‘third-space’ – a space for experimentation where new collaborations and ideas between students, researchers and the creative sector and cultural can be forged and transformed into culture, social or commercial success.

“This networking event was the starting point for the Creative Industries Hub to foster collaborations with the creative and cultural sector to enhance knowledge transfer, student training and research opportunities.”

Watch our introductory video on our Creative Industries Hub

The Creative Industries Center was established by Chris Cox and Professor Monica Degen in 2021 to provide a forum to present and develop research and training opportunities between higher education and the creative and cultural sectors. Contact them at [email protected]

Reported by:

Joe Buchanun, Media Relations

+44 (0)1895 268821
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