Virtual reality

Investment in Torbay creative industries

Torbay has been highlighted as a coastal area where investment in creative industries could be significant in supporting positive, inclusive economic development all year round, writes SIMON BEER.

It’s a message that is welcomed, but the question is what kind of support does it need?

Research published by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Center (PEC) reveals that creative industry firms – from graphic design to film – in Devon and Cornwall want to ‘invest in the skills and careers of local young people and support their ability to remain living and working in the region’.

However, lack of access to finance and the same level of national/local government support that creative industry businesses in ‘urban clusters’ receive is a major blocker.

As a Torbay lad, I am fortunate to now work in both marketing and Torquay.

It took a while though, having initially moved 300 miles to Bradford to complete a degree in media communications, then onto Cambridgeshire to take up my first marketing role.

At that time, I wanted to stay in Torquay, but there just weren’t any relevant courses, let alone jobs.

After a few years in industry, I found a role in Exeter, and then, after a few years, finally made it back to the Bay.

If you look close enough you will find a diverse collective of creative businesses and freelancers in Torbay, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with a good many of them over the past 15 years.

Within the Bay are videographers, photographers, directors, 3D and virtual reality animators, augmented reality producers, drone pilots, graphic designers, web developers, search engine optimization specialists, social media experts and even ex Google employees, among many others.

Creative industry income, particularly digital services, has been growing for several years.

Since the Covid pandemic more companies are now happy to hire remote businesses, and this is where a real opportunity for young people in the Bay lies.

Digital marketing offers a fantastic career with no two days the same. There are multiple career routes to explore, but the challenge is in teaching these skills locally and in creating the jobs to sustain them.

This is an area I am passionate about and over the past decade my agency, Bigwave Marketing, has been involved in a lot of projects to champion creative industry careers.

This includes supporting networking events, delivering training, lecturing at universities and colleges, mentoring students, running internships, offering work experience, and running apprenticeship programs.

We work with some amazing clients in the Bay, like Wild Planet Trust and TDA, and when we opened our Torquay office seven years ago we started to see more applicants applying locally.

We know the skills and client base are here, we just need to keep the people with those skills living here.

Creatively, there is great stuff going on in Torbay, and South Devon College is supporting entry into the industry though the Hi Tech and Digital Centre.

To keep momentum going I believe there are four key areas that the Bay needs support with:

  • collaboration and networking opportunities for people in the creative industry through peer networking events
  • encouraging local business to engage with further education providers to ensure learning matches the workplace requirements
  • improvements in signposting to funding and Government led initiatives
  • improvements in access to infrastructure (office/meeting spaces), ideally through a centralized creative hub.

It may not need significant funding, there is already regeneration around us. Carving out a niche for local creative talent, or simply using existing space could be the answer.

There is also another missing piece of the puzzle.

There isn’t, in my mind, a central body that focuses on bringing these types of Bay creatives together.

We need an organization to join the dots, champion local creatives and get the Bay collaborating.

There’s a gap waiting to be filled. Investors and bodies please form an orderly queue…

Simon Beer is operations and digital director of Bigwave Marketing, a leading full-service creative marketing agency and one of the largest in the South West, working from three Devon Based offices in Torquay, Exeter, and Plymouth. They provide innovative and cost-effective marketing, design and digital services and are both a Google Partner and a Facebook Marketing Partner. Their dedicated and passionate team of designers, developers and marketers work closely together to create dynamic marketing solutions tailored to fit your exact needs

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