Creative Hubs in the Digital Age

What is the Value of Creative Hubs in the Digital Age?

In 2015 The British Council’s Creative Economy Team released a Creative Hubkit [1] as part of a report into Creative Hubs. The kit highlights the fundamental ideas used by existing creative hubs and how these can be used to establish new ones:

10 key elements of a creative hub:

  1. A creative hub is flexible. The hub can take form as an online platform or alternatively in a variety of physical spaces.
  2. A creative hub promotes collaboration
  3. A creative hub nurtures idea growth and networking.
  4. A creative hub engages together as a community and will positively impact the local community.
  5. A creative hub focuses on creativity, culture and technology.
  6. A creative hub has aims of creating social, economic and cultural value through enterprise and social innovation.
  7. A creative hub is diverse and involves people from a range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds.
  8. A creative hub can facilitate with practical spaces, hardware and tools i.e. work benches, studios, screen printing materials, 3D printers etc.
  9. A creative hub will be structured with a new business model. There will be a shared mission statement that works towards improving humanity or society.
  10. A creative hub is a supportive environment that strives for growth in creative practice, business and audience reach.

Makerversity is an example of a modern face to face creative hub, as highlighted by The British Council[2]. The business model revolves around using their work space to bring people together. It boasts a variety of creative and technical expertise in order to encourage work, inspiration, and most importantly community. According to The British Council’s Economy Team “these [kinds of] spaces promote community spirit, vital to local and global economic and social development.”[3] Interestingly Makerversity is a members only scheme. In order to acquire a membership there is a monthly fee. The fees are in place to ensure all users have access to quality facilities and also to provide social networking events.

However not all hubs require membership. The business models that are more inclusive are the ones that don’t require membership payment. In being able to offer unlimited free access, they are able to provide access for all and are consequently diverse. Ultimately, and understandably, all hubs need donations or funding for running costs, especially when they intend to expand.

Hubs such as HackSpace are non-profit and are specifically community-run. They provide workshops and shared spaces for work, learning and teaching. Membership is an option but there isn’t a specific payment amount required. Their members help to run the organisation and will pay only what they think is fair.

2017 marks the launch of Europe’s largest creative hub. Officially launching June 17th 2017; Plexal will be located at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The hub will be the first of its kind, emulating a mini city. With the latest creative technology hosted in an environment created by architects and designers, it aims to be the next innovation of creative hubs. Plexal membership prices are estimated to start from £200 for a basic co-work space and over £400 for a premium private office. The scope and size of the creative hub will being a diverse range of creatives with varying business models.

According to Claire Cockerton CEO of Plexal, the new hub could potentially create a new definition for what constitutes a creative hub and the scope of its environment. Claire explains [4] that the difference with Plexal is that “the whole focus of our space is on connected devices and we’re focusing on sport, health, fashion and IoT technologies.” Plexal’s name derived from plexus meaning, “A complex structure containing an intricate network of parts.”[5] Cockerton has said Plexal is, “very much trying to embody the concept of connectivity and also humanity.” If other creative hubs follow Plexal’s lead, integration of state of the art technology and in house specialists such as lawyers etc. could impair the efficiency of standard practical spaces.

With any creative hub there is a need for a purpose and drive. Value is derived from the members that make up the community, sustainability derives from the hub. As discussed in The British Council’s Creative Hub Report [6] creative hubs hold strong shared ‘value and values’ with their ethos and work practice, for example; promoting social change, improving education or gender equality etc. With these values at the forefront of the hub, a positive impact will be made on the identity of the hub, its members and the networks it builds. As a combination of talented people working collaboratively in a positive social environment, the individuals gain confidence and as a team are more likely to succeed. “…these shared values are powerful motivators for the often precarious and risky lifestyle of the creative economy.” [6] This is what makes creative hubs valuable to other sectors, businesses and authorities.

Additionally The Creative Hub Report [6] also points out that “success is not defined in the same way in every hub. Understanding the unique proposition of a hub, and its relation to the local creative community, underpins a successful outcome.” With this in mind it would be interesting to monitor if and how non-profit creative hubs are able to keep their values when faced with economic pressure from profit driven creatives.

In conclusion it is extremely important to understand the current digital climate of the creative industries. The Creative Hub Report states “the development of a creative hub is an ongoing process, and it points to the need to continually review the relevance of the governance to practice and to the stakeholders if a resilient hub is to be sustained.”[6] With the opening of Plexal and potentially similar hubs to follow in the future, it is likely that we will see a gradual change in the way that creative hubs work and how collaborative production takes place. Although technology may currently empower creatives to connect in an instant, it is the creative hubs with their focus on ethical values that are driving working dynamics.

 

[1] “Creative Hubs”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/projects/hubs/

[2] “In Focus: Makerversity”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/blog/15/01/04/focus-makerversity/

[3] “Creative Hubs”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/projects/hubs/

[4] “PLEXAL: The Quirky Innovation Centre With A ‘High Street’ That’s Being Set Up In London’s £150 Million Tech Hub”. Business Insider. Sam Shead., October 2016. Web. Jan. 2017. http://uk.businessinsider.com/plexal-here-east-london-olympic-park-2016-10

[5] “The Definition Of Plexus”. Dictionary.com. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/plexus

[6] “The Creative Hubs Report”. The British Council, 2016. Web. Jan. 2017  http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/media/uploads/files/HubsReport.pdf

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