In summer 2021 we ran an event discussing funding for creative businesses with the south west team at Innovate UK EDGE and a group of Bristol Creative Industries members.

During the discussion, attendees said it would be useful if we could provide regular updates on the finance schemes that are available for creative companies in the south west and beyond. This guide is our response.

The guide is one of Bristol Creative Industries’ most popular ever blog posts. We keep it updated with the latest funding schemes for creative businesses so check it regularly. We also include the post in our monthy email newsletter, BCI Bulletin. To sign up, go here.   

Latest funding for creative businesses:

West of England Combined Authority creative freelancer grants

Creative freelancers in Bath, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire can apply for grants of up to £2,000 to deliver specific activity that will enable them to develop their product, service or creative practice. Examples include:

The deadline for applications is 12pm on 21 June.

More details.

West of England Combined Authority Business Innovation Fund

This scheme provides grant funding to help businesses progress research and development activity leading to the creation of novel/new products, processes and/or services.

You can apply for a grant of between £15,000 and £25,000 to cover up to 45% of project costs. You must fund the remaining 55%.

Applying businesses and the project location must be based in the council areas of Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, or South Gloucestershire.

The deadline to apply for the fifth round of funding is 12pm on 20 June 2024.

More details.

£200m South West Investment Fund

The British Business Bank, the government-owned business development bank, has launched the £200m South West Investment Fund (SWIF) “to help address market failures by increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for UK smaller businesses, providing funds to firms that might otherwise not receive investment”.

Aimed at businesses in Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the fund provides:

SWIF is managed by four fund managers:

The region is split as follows:

North of the region:

South of the region:

The funding is split as follows:

Businesses can apply for funding directly to the relevant fund managers here.

Bristol Council vacant commercial property grant scheme

Bristol Council is offering grants of between £2,500 and £10,000 to organisations taking on a new city centre or local high street commercial property.

The funding is open to businesses, charities, CICs, sole traders and arts and culture groups for both long term and temporary/meanwhile use.

Organisations must employ fewer than 50 people, have a turnover of £10.2m or less, and a balance sheet showing £5.1m or less.

Funding can be used for structural works to a property or equipment to be used in the property (capital expenditure). The funding needs to be matched by 20%.

Applications are open until 11.59pm on Monday 30 September 2024.

Successful applicants must start trading from the funded property by Friday 31 January 2025.

More details.

Create Growth Programme

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Create Growth Programme provides grant funding and business support to micro, small and medium sized businesses in the creative industries with innovative ideas.

To apply, businesses need to be based in one of these 12 English regions:

There is a total of £3m in grants available in the latest round of funding. Individual businesses can apply for grants of between £10,000 and £30,000.

Applications close at 11am on 19 June.

More details.

Innovate UK Smart Grants

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £25m for “game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy”.

Applications for the latest round of funding close at 11am on 24 July.

More details.

Innovate UK innovation loans

UK registered businesses can apply for loans for innovative projects with strong commercial potential to significantly improve the UK economy.

You can apply for a loan of between £100,000 and £2m to fund your project’s eligible costs.

Applications for the latest round of funding close at 11am on 26 June

Another round of funding will open on 27 June and close on 21 August

More details.

Creative UK Creative Growth Finance II

This £35m Creative UK and Triodos Bank investment fund provides loans of £100,000 to £1m.

Finance is directed to post-revenue creative businesses presenting promising growth potential and who:

More details here.

UK Games Fund Content Fund

Grants of £50,000 – £150,000 are available for UK registered small and medium sized enterprises with PAYE employees engaged in games development work in the UK.

More details.

UK Games Fund Prototype Fund

Established UK-based companies with a game development project at an early stage in the pipeline can apply for grants of up to £30,000.

More details.

Supporting Grassroots Music Fund

Applications are open for this government fund which supports rehearsal and recording studios, promoters, festivals, and venues for live and electronic music performance.

Grants of £1,000 and £40,000 are available for projects up to three years in length. The fund runs until March 2025.

More details here.

Developing your Creative Practice

This fund from Arts Council England supports individual cultural and creative practitioners in England thinking of taking their practice to the next stage through things such as: research, time to create new work, travel, training, developing ideas, networking or mentoring.

Grants of up to £12,000 are available.

The rounds of funding are as follows:

Round 21

Opens for applications: 12pm on 25 July 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 22 August 2024
Decisions announced: 7 November 2024

Round 22

Opens for applications: 12pm on 14 November 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 12 December 2024
Decisions announced: 6 March 2025

More details here.

]Travelwest sustainable travel grants

Travelwest provides match-funded grants for initiatives that improve sustainable travel provision in a business.

The aim is to provide financial support and incentives to employers to enable them to encourage sustainable modes of commuting or in-work travel (including site visits and meetings) amongst their staff.

The grants can be used for the implementation of physical measures, promotional events or any other measure that will encourage mode change amongst staff.

Grants are currently availables for businesses in Bristol and North Somerset.

More details.

BridgeAI funding and support programme

Innovate UK’s £100m BridgeAI programme aims “to help businesses in high growth potential sectors such as creative industries, agriculture, construction, and transport to harness the power of AI and unlock their full potential”.

The programme offers funding and support to help innovators assess and implement trusted AI solutions, connect with AI experts, and elevate their AI leadership skills.

More details.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts Fund

This fund supports organisations who work at the intersection of art and social change. It offers grants between £90,000 and £300,000 over three years.

The fund is open for applications from 4 April until 31 May and from 14 August until 14 October.

More details here.

Arts & Culture Impact Fund

This new £23m social impact investment fund is for socially driven arts, culture and heritage organisations registered and operating in the UK. It offers loans between £150,000 and £1m repayable until May 2030.

More details here.

The Elephant Trust

The Elephant Trust says its mission is to “make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when frustrated by lack of funds. It is committed to helping artists and art institutions/galleries that depart from the routine and signal new, distinct and imaginative sets of possibilities.”

Grants of up to £5,000 are available.

More details here.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Grants of up to £100,000 are available for arts, libraries and museums projects.

The grants support a broad range of creative and cultural projects that benefit people living in England. Projects can range from directly creating and delivering creative and cultural activity to projects which have a longer term positive impact, such as organisational development, research and development, and sector support and development.

More details here.

Start Up Loans

A Start Up Loan is a government-backed unsecured personal loan for individuals looking to start or grow a business in the UK. Successful applicants also receive 12 months of free mentoring and exclusive business offers.

All owners or partners in a business can individually apply for up to £25,000 each, with a maximum of £100,000 per business.

The loans have a fixed interest rate of 6% p.a. and a one to five year repayment term. Entrepreneurs starting a business or running one that has been trading for up to three years can apply. Businesses trading for between three and five years can apply for a second loan.

More details here.

UnLtd funding for social entrepreneurs

If you’re running a creative social enterprise you may be able to access funding from UnLtd.

Finance of up to £5,000 is available for starting a social enterprise and up to £15,000 for growing a social enterprise.

Successful applicants also get up to 12 tailored business support plus access to access to expert mentors and workshops.

More details here.

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Businesses can apply for up to £3,500 to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband.

Check if the scheme is available in your area here.

Know of more funding and support for creative businesses?

If you know of another scheme that we haven’t listed and you’d like to share it with other creative businesses, email Dan to let us know.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West, met boomsatsuma staff and students to find out more about the challenges and opportunities facing the independent training and funding for the regions Creative Industry sector,  joined by representatives from Better Society Capital, Bristol & Bath Regional Capital and Access – the Foundation for Social Investment.

The visit to Leadworks, one of boomsatsuma’s six training centres across Bristol, Friday 10th May, gave the MP first hand insight as to how boomsatsuma delivers education differently, bringing opportunities to the often-marginalised communities across the city. The award-winning Bristol-based disruptive educator has seen demand for its courses from students feeding into careers within the regions’ thriving creative industry sector rise year on year.

Thangam Debbonaire, MP, engaged in discussions delving into the potential for ethical funding routes for the betterment of communities, culture and education. She states:

“It was great to visit boomsatsuma and see how their brilliant facilities and staff are enabling students to take their talent to the next level. I’m proud of Bristol’s vibrant cultural life. As Culture Secretary in a Labour government, I’ll work with institutions like boomsatsuma to secure the creative talent pipeline our city needs so that it can continue to generate joy, jobs and wealth that we all benefit from.”

boomsatsuma has been supported with around £800k investment from City Funds, the place-based impact investment fund managed by BBRC, which underpinned significant expansion and enabled higher capacity. City Funds is a £10m fund created for investment from Better Society Capital, Bristol City Council and Access: The Foundation for Social Investment.

Founder Mark Curtis explained:

“It’s great to have this opportunity to have a dialogue with our local MP, who clearly shares our passion for culture, sports and (can see) their importance to the local society and economy. It’s encouraging that there is top level recognition that these sectors are important and require training pathways, beyond Maths and Engineering, to meet the needs of the employers and also fulfil the passions to give the next generations a voice.”

Mark continues:

“A significant challenge for providers like boomsatsuma is that although we could meet the demands of expanding student numbers and align new courses with the regions’ skills agenda, we have had no direct access to central Government or the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support our growth and demand. We have increased our engagement with Business West and West England Combined Authority over the past year and today’s visit will hopefully help consolidate our position in the local creative training landscape.

“While we enjoy very positive relationships with our education partners (at Cabot Learning Federation and Olympus Academy), it’s unfortunate that we are capped by the current system that restricts our ability to grow and scale into new markets and territories. Without systemic change we can only reach a limited number of young people.

“Sometimes to make a difference you have to actually do things differently. We are hoping the next administration will support us in this.”

Stephen Muers, CEO, Better Society Capital said:

“Boomsatsuma is a brilliant organisation helping to channel Bristolian talent into creative jobs. Organisations like this which help people access the UK’s thriving creative industries are invaluable and we are so glad to support Mark and the team. We appreciate boomsatsuma’s hospitality, and it was great to be able to show Thangam Debbonaire a wonderful example of the role social investment can play in a really important local business.

Social investment can help transform lives and we are eager to work with the next government to unlock billions more pounds of private investment into tackling the UK’s social issues and grow the economy.”

Ed Rowberry, Chief Executive, BBRC, said:

“BBRC is delighted to have invested in boomsatsuma by deploying blended finance at the local level via City Funds.  The blend of finance, sourced from Better Society Capital, Access and Bristol City Council has enabled boomsatsuma to continue to deliver on its important mission to provide pathways for young people particularly those from Bristol’s marginalised communities, into the region’s creative and digital workforce.”



The Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West, with boomsatsuma staff and students, Better Society Capital, Bristol & Bath Regional Capital and Access – the Foundation for Social Investment. Outside of Leadworks, Bristol.

Picture by Jett Morgan, Year 2 Photography level 3 student at boomsatsuma College

Origin Workspace is turning five this April, and they couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate with their community of Bristol professionals! For five years, the premium co-working space has been the hub for a vibrant and supportive community of like-minded individuals. Situated in the heart of Bristol on Berkeley Square, the workspace provides more than just a place to work. Membership at Origin Workspace provides access not only to state-of-the-art facilities but also to an onsite well-being centre and community activities such as the Bristol Parkrun, monthly Happy Hour, and Pub Quizzes. Origin Workspace has ramped up its events throughout the spring and summer period, thanks to the stunning roof terraces. From Barre workshops to monthly member treats from some of Bristol’s best restaurants, these are just a few examples of their commitment to creating an environment that fosters success.


To celebrate our fifth anniversary and to keep the community thriving, we are offering two exclusive deals during the week of 22nd – 26th April. Join us in the celebration and take advantage of this unique opportunity to work in a collaborative and supportive environment that has helped numerous professionals achieve their goals!

We are slashing the joining fee by a whopping 90%! That’s right, you can join as a member for just £5 +VAT instead of the usual £55 fee. Still deciding if Origin Workspace is for you? Try us for the day as we are offering a special deal on their day passes. For this week only, you can enjoy all the perks of the space for just £5 +VAT instead of the usual £35 +VAT.

Since 2019, Square Works has become the byword for luxurious serviced offices and co-working in Bristol. We started with the aim of building a community where professionals could work, network, relax and socialise in an environment that offered the very best – from an exciting events calendar to a light and airy workspace that members can truly enjoy.

Situated on the beautiful Berkeley Square, a ten-minute walk from the city centre, Square Works is spacious, airy and filled with contemporary art and natural light. This unique workspace is spread across three elegant Georgian townhouses, with a range of conference and meeting rooms, communal spaces, kitchens and a fitness suite.

As a BCI member you can get 10% off memberships and meeting rooms at Square Works, contact our reception at [email protected] to take advantage of this offer.

Becoming a member of Bristol Creative Industries brings many benefits. We regularly add new opportunities so here is a guide to the latest benefits you can enjoy by signing up. This post is regularly updated.

Join Bristol Creative Industries from only £4.95 a month.

Appear in the member directory

Showcase your best work and attract new clients with a company profile in the Bristol Creative Industries member directory. The directory receives lots of visits every month from people looking for services from creative businesses.

Bristol Creative Industries membership

Self-publish content

Got some business advice or news to share? As a Bristol Creative Industries member you can self-publish content on our website and it will automatically appear on your member profile. We upgrade great content to the newsfeed and homepage, while four posts by members are included in our monthly email newsletter.

To get an idea of the content topics that do well, here are the top 20 most popular posts by members in 2022.

Bristol Creative Industries member Jessica Morgan from Carnsight Communications discussed the benefits of posting content in this interview.

Advertise jobs on the BCI jobs board

The Bristol Creative Industries jobs board attracts thousands of job hunters every month. As part of your membership, you can post unlimited free job adverts, saving you on average £3,500 per candidate.

Piers Tincknell, co-founder of Atomic Smash, is one of BCI’s longest serving members and he told us in a member profile interview how he regularly uses the jobs board to recruit new employees.

Attend members’ lunches

BCI’s monthly members’ lunches are a perfect opportunity for members to catch up with fellow members and the BCI team.

Everyone has a slot of up to three minutes to tell the others a little about who they are and what they do and share any news and/or challenges. You don’t need to fill the full three minutes. We usually find some common themes emerge to discuss over the course of the session.  It’s all very informal with no need to stand up and present slides.

The events are free to attend for members. They are a mix of in person and virtual events. The in person sessions are at The Square Club in Bristol and include a free buffet lunch.

Check the events section of details of the next lunches.

Drew Benvie, Battenhall, Social Media Trends 2024, Bristol Creative Industries keynote

Discounts for keynotes, workshops and other events

Our flagship keynote events and workshops feature world class speakers sharing their expertise. It’s a unique opportunity to access valuable insights for growing your business. Bristol Creative Industries members receive a ticket discount.

An example of a keynote event is the brilliant presentation on social media trends delivered in March 2024 by Drew Benvie, founder of global social media consultancy Battenhall.

Some events, such as our regular freelancer networking drinks, are free for members.

Keen an eye on the events section for the latest events. You can also sign up to the monthly BCI Bulletin to be notified of events.

Big thanks to everyone who joined us at @SquareClifton last night for the Bristol Creative Industries freelancer networking drinks ☀️ 🍷

Sign up to the BCI Bulletin to be notified of new events: #Bristol #freelancers

— Bristol Creative Industries (@Bristol_CI) June 21, 2023

Attend and host Wake Up Call

Wake Up Call is a member exclusive live webinar that takes place every other Friday at 8.30-9am. The content is delivered by members for members.

Attending the free event gives you access to valuable insights from your fellow members and if you host a Wake Up Call, you can share your expertise and attract potential new clients.

See details for upcoming Wake Up Call events in our events section.

If you’re a BCI member and you’d liked to deliver a presentation on a topic of your choice during Wake Up Call, email Sian Pitman.

Equity, diversity and inclusion training

Research shows that diverse teams are more creative problem solvers, bringing fresh perspectives to solutions, against the echo-chamber effect that results when people in a business come from too-similar backgrounds. With a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, employees feel valued and that they belong.

To help Bristol Creative Industries members achieve this, we have partnered with The Hobbs Consultancy to provide on demand equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) e-learning.

The CPD certified online course consists of modules to help you bring about positive change in your business, understand the key challenges in the way for different groups, and explore your own biases and how to overcome them.

The training modules take an in-depth look at different diversity and inclusion topics: race, disability, LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, gender (split into female leadership, masculinity, gender identity), age and social mobility in the workplace.

The price of the training for BCI members is £120+VAT. All profits will be ploughed back into our youth engagement activity.

To access this brilliant training opportunity, log into your Bristol Creative Industries account and click on the ‘members’ training’ section.

Opportunity to mentor high potential young people

We have to start engagement at school by raising the profile of the creative sector to a wider and more diverse audience. To do this, we’re developing ways to bring together creative business members and future talent through mentoring.

We are thrilled to have launched a partnership with The Early Careers Foundation (ECF), a social mobility charity that works with young people from low-income backgrounds to ensure that talent and hard work are what determine their career success, not background.

Through its mentoring programme, ECF pairs employees from partner organisations with 16-18-year-olds for monthly hour-long mentoring sessions.

Thanks to our new partnership, BCI members can now become a mentor and support a young person in building their confidence, developing their employability skills and offering invaluable professional guidance.

Applications to become a mentor close on 1 August 2024.

To find out more about how you can get involved, read this post.

Join outdoor networking events

The regular BCI Walk & Talk networking sessions are for a group of 12 BCI members who don their walking boots and explore the stunning countryside around Bristol and Bath.

It’s a great opportunity for members to make some new connections whilst getting some much needed fresh air!

Keen an eye on the events section for details of the next outdoor networking event. You can also sign up to the monthly BCI Bulletin to be notified of events.

Bristol Creative Industries Walk & Talk outdoor networking

Attend exclusive roundtables

We host regular roundtables for agency leaders to discuss strategic challenges. These events are vital for us to hear from the member community about the key issues you are facing and how we can help. A roundtable on funding led to us creating this popular and regularly updated guide to the latest finance on offer to creative businesses.

If you are interested in getting involved with future roundtables, email Sian Pitman.

Discounts on workspace, hotels and more

Reductions on co-working spaces, meeting rooms, hotel accommodation, a recruitment strategy review and a coffee subscription are just some of the many discounts and offers we’ve negotiated for members.

Other benefits

We regularly deliver other benefits.

Members can currently book a free 30 minute legal advice call with award winning business lawyer Rebecca Steer.

To stay updated on the latest member benefits, sign up to the monthly BCI Bulletin.


Join Bristol Creative Industries from only £4.95 a month.

If you have any questions about membership, email Alli Nicholas

For the past five years BeOnBoard operated as a project under TBIT, making significant strides in their mission to ensure that businesses in the South West are reflective of the diversity of the teams, their clients and the communities they serve.

Founded by the inspirational Kalpna Woolf, who also leads the charity; 91 ways to build a global city, the charity was being incorporated to realise the ambitious growth plans.

Through the research we conducted what became clear was that if leaders with the same background make decisions through the same lens, they will get the same outcomes. Where are the fresh ideas? The different outlooks? The challenges to tradition? Where’s the change? BeOnBoard brings the diverse talent they’ve coached and nurtured to boardroom tables.

The proposition: BeOnBoard connect businesses who are ready to embrace new ideas with the people who have them. Those who have a hunger for growth and innovation. And they do it not just from an equitable standpoint, but from a commercial one. It’s just better business.

Our programme of work included:

To see how we can help, visit


Make Exhibition from Towards Change!
Our Mission
Our project aims to reconsider and challenge how stereotypes are portrayed in advertising using a civic engaging approach. Civic insights could transform the advertising landscape and bring about meaningful change by creating tangible alternative ideas!
See LinkedIn page
“Towards Change”, invites the civic community to creatively confront and transform the advertising industry. By collectively reimagining banned adverts, we foster an inclusive platform for diverse voices, breaking away from the advertising industry’s exclusivity. This movement embodies the spirit of change through creativity, welcoming all to contribute to a more ethical advertising world.
What We’re Doing
We’ve selected 20 controversial adverts for their problematic content to undergo a creative transformation. Through a series of workshops engaging the community and future creatives, we dissect these adverts, discuss their impacts, and collaboratively reimagine them to convey positive messages.
☆Creative workshops revolutionize advertising quality★

Original banned ad

Reimagined and twisted advertisings from civic workshop
Why it is important
Every day, we’re bombarded with advertisements that, often subconsciously, propagate stereotypes and outdated societal norms. These portrayals can have a profound impact on our perceptions, behaviours, and the social fabric at large. Our project aims to challenge these narratives, providing alternative, stereotype-free adverts that reflect a more inclusive society.
What’s On
The culmination of our efforts will be an exhibition showcasing both the original and reimagined adverts, offering a stark visual dialogue on the power of advertising for social change

Exhibition Details
This exhibition is an educational journey that unravels the impact of stereotypes in advertising and celebrates the innovative solutions born from our workshops. Immerse yourself in a curated showcase of original and reimagined advertisements, highlighting the journey from controversial to inclusive messaging.
Speaker Session (18:00 – 19:00)

creative professionals
experts in marketing, advertising, and media
academic professors in gender and communications
This talk is particularly relevant for people working in marketing, PR, advertising, digital, and those in the creative industries who are looking to gain a deeper understanding of the inclusive communication landscape.
Networking Event(19:00 – 20:00)

For Students at University of Bristol:
There will be a chance to hear from guest speakers and an opportunity to network with creative and media experts. If you are taking part in the University of Bristol PLUS Award, then this networking session will count as one of your careers and employability workshops!

Join us in championing creativity, social responsibility, and transformative civic participation with an exhibition that marks a pivotal moment in advertising.
How You Can Help
Your financial contributions will breathe life into this ambitious project, covering the costs of hosting the exhibition, organising the speaker session, and facilitating the networking event.
Our supporters

By supporting us, you’re not just funding an event; you’re investing in the future of ethical advertising and empowering a community committed to diversity and inclusion.
Whether you’re seeking a career in the creative, communication, or media industries, a professional looking to explore innovative advertising solutions, or a civic-minded individual passionate about art and social issues, your support can make a significant difference.
Help us turn “Towards Change! Rethinking Representation in Advertising” from a vision into a reality. Together, we can inspire change and pave the way for a more inclusive and responsible advertising industry.
Our Team
Who are we? We are a Bristol based team consisting of international students and marketers, united by a shared passion for fostering a more inclusive world through advertising. Rooted in diverse backgrounds and cultures, our collective journey at the University of Bristol has been enriched by the guidance of esteemed academic professors, the supportive partnerships, and the collaborative spirit of various social sectors. Check out our website here to find out more!
Project Director

Hi, I’m Rika, I am project director to launch this to a more inclusive advertising world. I have launched this DE&I project with my scholarship-awarded ambitions friend of mine, aimed at generating alternative creative strategies for banned advertisements through civic engagement as the pivotal moment of my advertising career.
With a rich background in analyzing and consulting on over 100 global campaigns, my work at WPP group was a turning point, deepening my dedication to diversity and ethical advertising.

My journey doesn’t stop in the corporate world; I’m equally passionate about educating the next generation. As a freelance lecturer and a voice in the academic sphere, I’ve shared my expertise internationally, fostering a community of over 5,000 on social media.

Let’s embark on this journey together to reshape advertising. Make the exhibition real for a glimpse into the future of advertising, led by insights, ethics, and innovation.

🌸Towards Change Exhibition for Inclusive Advertising🌸

LinkedIn Event Page

We are thrilled to announce a showcase of civic powers to transform advertising content from controversial to inclusive messaging from our workshops we’ve conducted to the public every week.

See the fusion of social, academic, and advertising industry unravels the impact of stereotypes in advertising and provide a platform for dialogue, learning, and change.

This exhibition is proudly sponsored by Launch, a Google Premier Partner and two-time winner of Europe’s Best Small PPC Agency. Thanks to their generous support, admission is free, making it accessible to everyone interested in exploring this transformative display.

🌸Speaker Session (18:00 – 19:00)
Carol Watson, Chief Inclusion Officer at BCW ( Global Agency)
Dan Srokosz, Creative Director, AgencyUK
Megan Gibson, Paid Media Director, AgencyUK
Dr. Junko Yamashita, Professor at the University of Bristol
Ms. Samantha Ford, Marketing lecturer at the University of Bristol

🌸Comments are from
Polly Wyn Jones, Kantar Global Knowledge Manager, Creative & Media
Nendra van Wielink-Mohamed, Global Media Practitioner
Dr. Terrell Carver, Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bristol
Joyann Boyce, TedX Speaker, Founder AI Consultancy
Olu Osinoiki – 📸 Wedding Photographer

Bristol-based communications and marketing firm Purplefish has become employee owned. Joanna Randall, who formed the award-winning business in 2012. has sold 100% of shares to the new trust.

The Living Wage business, located in Bristol’s creative business community at Paintworks, was awarded B Corporation certification two years ago and becomes the first PR agency in Bristol to make the transition to employee ownership.

As part of the transition, a new board has been appointed and Joanna Randall will remain an active executive board director of the business which sees associate director Lucy McKerron promoted to the role of managing director. They are joined by two employee trustee directors, senior account manager Jonathan Adams and account manager Zoë Fawcett.

Working across technology, property and leisure sectors across the South West, nationally and internationally, the business joins the ranks of a growing number of UK businesses making the move to employee ownership.

As an employee-owned business, the team will have greater input into the running of the business and its future, benefiting from a share of the profits.

The company is also celebrating a clutch of new client wins in recent months including experience business Yuup and agency collective firm Istoria.

The move is celebrated with a new website for the business which reflects the value of harnessing emerging and generative AI technologies while maintaining a human-centric approach to communications and marketing.

Commenting on the move, Randall said: “This is a really exciting time for the business. As a sole owner and shareholder it can often be an isolated role so I’m really looking forward to being part of the new management team in defining our future direction.

“I believe our traditional business structures are becoming outdated where companies are run for the sole benefit of owners and shareholders – employee ownership offers a more authentic way of running a business where commercial growth is still a focus but the benefits can be shared more equitably.”

New managing director Lucy McKerron said of her new role and the future direction for Purplefish: “I’m incredibly excited to be stepping into the role of Managing Director here a Purplefish, an agency I’ve come to know so well and love in the last two years since joining the team. The business is perfectly aligned with my personal values of integrity, creativity, and compassion, providing rewarding work for both myself and the wider team – something which will only be emphasised as we move into our EOT model.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to innovate as a business, both for our existing and new clients as we grow and evolve. We’re committed to leaning into the opportunities emerging technologies can bring while maintaining our human-centric approach to creativity, our connection to the issues that matter, while continuing to help our clients stand out and thrive.”

The government’s 2024 Spring Budget takes place on 6 March. Bristol Creative Industries members share what they would like to see in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s speech for creative businesses.

“One thing we’re not looking for from the spring budget is a handout. After many conversations and hearing discussions at industry events, I don’t believe most businesses want this either. I set Distinctive up about three months before the not-so-mini budget in 2022. That single event made trading harder for our clients and us, deterred investment and had real life impacts on our colleagues.

“Given this context, another tax cut won’t touch the sides. What I’d like to see from the spring budget, first and foremost, is firm commitment to supporting things vital for sustainable economic growth and enabling us to plan effectively. Whether you call the state we’re in a ‘technical’ recession or not, that’s clearly not happening yet.

“If the economy is to stand a chance of growing sustainably, it needs investment in sectors like green technology, renewable energy, affordable housing, skills, and education. We also need a sustainable funding settlement for local authorities who are on the brink of financial collapse. Handouts grab the headlines, but they won’t address these fundamentals.

“It’s going to take more than one budget to change things for the better. But the government has a crucial opportunity with this budget to set a positive path, for an innovative, resilient creative sector and the broader economy.

“Progress will be harder without this.”

Ben Lowndes, Distinctive Communications
View Distinctive Communications’ profile here

“As with many businesses in the South West, recruiting exceptional talent is a key priority for Varn, so investments in digital skills training programs are crucial going forward. We are focused on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and how search marketing will be evolving, so I hope to see initiatives from the government around education and investment to recognise that we are in an era of constant change.

“Allocating resources to establish AI-focused programs in schools and universities will help prepare our future creative and digital workforce. I’d love to see initiatives and apprenticeships tailored to AI and technology fields, in order to incentivise students to pursue learning in these critical areas.”

Tom Vaughton, Varn
View Varn’s profile here

Relevant post: How Bristol Creative Industries members are using AI

“While the past few years have been an incredibly exciting time for the creative sector in Bristol, we are currently grappling with navigating emerging technologies, rising costs, and increased competition.

“I’m hoping for more grant provision for evolving businesses to invest in team training and development, specifically in use of AI, automation and new tech. This is critical to helping Bristol retain its innovative creative reputation on a national and international stage, while helping to continue to attract and retain talent in the city.”

Lucy McKerron, Purplefish
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“Working within the digital space, we’re always striving to innovate, particularly to bridge the gap between tech and physical, providing people with new and personalised experiences. As tech evolves at pace, the creative industries within the South West must have access to the new techniques, new languages and innovations needed to ensure they remain relevant.

“Our hope for the Spring Budget is that there will be further investment into supporting access to that tech, not just for those already working in the industry, but also ensuring inclusive access to the critical emerging talent coming into the sector.”

Alex Saxon, Tiny Spark
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“It would be great to see a clear and strategic plan for the creative industries, notably arts and culture, that supports investment in skills and infrastructure. There needs to be a multifaceted approach across funding, facilities, business development and planning to nourish a thriving local arts and culture ecosystem. This requires collaboration across government agencies and community stakeholders.

‘The government’s creative industries sector vision published in June 2023 needs proper goals and funding if it is not to become an empty promise like Like Build Back Better and Levelling Up.

“At this stage in an election year however, it’s probably too late. The budget will inevitably focus on tax incentives to meet the expectations of traditional conservative voters.”

Catherine Frankpitt, Strike Communications
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“I would love to see a centralised portal of financial support available for the UK creative sector. Huge pots of money exist, all managed by separate entities – from Innovate UK to Arts Council England and Digital Catapult.

“We’re creatives at heart, not financiers or MBA holders, and it can be challenging enough to find them, check eligibility, and see what they’re able to fund – and that’s before you’ve even started the application.”

Russell Jones, JonesMillbank
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“We believe that AI has amazing potential as a complementary tool for the creative industries. We have seen the hype around this technology soften at the start of 2024 – primarily because people are realising that it takes time and effort to learn how to get good results. This is why training is such a vital part of realising the full value of AI.

“We think a fund to support recruitment and training of early careers talent into creative services, targeted on increasing digital/AI skills, would help ensure that the UK’s creative sector remains world leading and provide a valuable avenue for younger generations to acquire the skills they’ll need to navigate a digital future.”

Colm Hebblethwaite, Stratton Craig
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“With ESG and sustainability a key focus for many of our clients, we’d like to see the government put in place measures which will support and incentivise investment in net zero, particularly for smaller businesses who are facing financial constraints.

We’d also like to see research and development tax breaks prioritising sustainability-focused industries, such as renewable energy, mobility and facilitating the circular economy. With the right investment these sectors can be the growth engine of the UK; and Bristol is already leading in many of these areas. The budget is an opportunity unleash more of this potential.”

Katy Barney, AMBITIOUS
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“We’re officially in recession, but the truth is that we’ve been feeling the effects of a difficult economy for a long time, as smaller business owners as well as consumers.

“What I don’t want to hear in the budget discussion is how many “tough decisions” have been taken. As business owners, we understand tough decisions and take them most days! There are over 5 million businesses like mine which are often called the “backbone” of the economy, so we need to be respected, understood and supported. I don’t want to be used as a political pawn.

“I’d like some policies aimed at helping us to grow. Moves like an increase in corporation tax and a decrease in dividend allowance will affect the smaller business community disproportionately. When I get together with fellow small business owners, there’s a strong sense of support. I’d like to see that sense coming through from the government and wider business community.

“The consistently late payers that put small businesses under pressure are the large corporates, in my experience. I would certainly like a clamp down on late paying, which can be crippling.”

Jessica Morgan, Carnsight Communications
View Carnsight Communications’ BCI profile here

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