Creative industries hit hard as AWM funds are cut off
Creative industries in the region have been dealt a blow after Advantage West Midlands revealed a hit-list of projects which will see their funding trimmed.
The Advantage Creative Fund, a publicly-financed venture capital fund investing in the creative industries, is among the 65 regeneration schemes denied funding by the regional development agency as part of its by £132 million cost-cutting drive.
Money allocated by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) for an extension to the Advantage Creative Fund, which has invested over £5 million in creative businesses in the West Midlands, has been pulled.
And in Wolverhampton, the next phase of a £7.1 million Creative Industries Centre at the Wolverhampton Science Park, which aims to support creative entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, is looking uncertain since the regional development agency said it would no longer be allocated funding.
Fifty-five West Midland creative firms have benefited from the Advantage Creative Fund, which has pumped £5.4 million into the region since it was founded in 2003.
The fund, which is sponsored jointly by Advantage West Midlands, the European Regional Development Fund and Arts Council England, is currently fundraising for its third round of investments.
Among the businesses which have benefited from the Advantage Creative Fund in the past are television companies Maverick Television – which makes programmes such as Embarrassing Bodies and the Gok Wan fashion series – and Hotbed Media and more recently Custard Factory-based Three Ones Music, a record label and music booking agency – the brainchild of Birmingham music industry stalwart John Mostyn.
Nobody from the fund was available to talk to The Birmingham Post.
Meanwhile in the Black Country, the Wolverhampton Science Park, whose mission is to “support the growth of sustainable and innovative businesses by providing a quality physical environment and associated support services,” will not be receiving funds to expand its facilities. In 2003, the Science Park opened a £7.1 million Creative Industries Centre which aims to support entrepreneurs attempting to commercialise their business.
The next phase of the development had hoped to “provide extra grow-on accommodation for creative businesses” and build a bridge to link a further 30,000 square feet of office space.
Wolverhampton Science Park Technology executive director Martin Bucknell said the hoped-for AWM funding was a “significant” amount which is now unattainable. The Science Park will hold a board meeting to decide the future of the expansion plans today.
The Black Country Living Museum will also be hit by a lack of AWM funding. The museum was hoping to build a 1930s High Street at its open-air site near Dudley Castle as part of its Old Birmingham Road project – the reconstruction of a block of four shops which formerly stood in Oldbury.
The museum wants to return No.12 Birmingham Road to its 1930s state when builders and decorators the Humphrey Brothers occupied the premises.
Black Country Living Museum Director Ian Walden said the lack of funding would give the museum a “serious headache”. A sum of £3 million was to be used to fund the next phase of the development.
The funding cuts come after AWM saw central government reduce its total budget by £48 million, a blow which was coupled with a downturn in revenue from its own assets. The agency has predicted its own revenues – such as renting land out to tenants – will drop by £20 million because of the downturn.
AWM has also been redirecting cash from its regeneration schemes towards business-support measures to help local companies survive the recession.