During the last decade creative hubs and co-working spaces have become essential to how creatives work and as such, to the growth and development of the creative economy globally.
In Cardiff, throughout the past year in particular, we've seen a number established - all differing in their offer.
Hubs are not only defined by the physical space which they occupy, but by the services they provide and their contribution to the wider creative community and environment in which they operate. These defining features are often down to the values, experiences and expertise of the person or people behind the space.
This piece focuses the context and concept of creative hubs and what happening in this space in Cardiff and its region. We look at those spaces that specifically set out to provide a place for co-working but that's not to discount places like Chapter and cafes, such as Kin & Ilk and Little Man Coffee, which have become more ad hoc places to work. Or buildings like Gloworks that have creative businesses co-located within but in their own distinct office spaces. Or where creatives go to use a specific resource like Musicbox's rehearsal space, Printhaus Workshop's screenprinting equipment, the workshop at Cardiff hackspace and Fablab's maker technology.
What is a creative hub?
A creative hub isn't necessarily defined by one feature but rather by a whole host of contributory features. For this reason, it can be a challenge to identify one single definition as they can vary significantly. Below are some definitions of different views on creative hubs:
“A creative hub is a place, either physical or virtual, which brings creative people together. It is a convenor, providing space and support for networking, business, development and community engagement within the creative, cultural and tech sectors.” - British Council Creative HubKit
“A creative hub enables connections, learning and experimentation within the sector and beyond the creative industries to stimulate new thinking and help drive innovation.” - European Creative Hubs Forum
The model for creative hubs and co-working spaces has further evolved over time in response to changes in people’s working habits and the growth in the start-up community, who are looking for a more professional workspace in which to incubate and grow.
Creative hubs can provide a supportive environment to facilitate growth for small, start-up businesses that are looking for a place to work. Despite this, creative spaces are not just primarily aimed at these types of businesses; they connect people from across the whole of the creative sector. A hub community can consist of freelancers, company employees, managers, academics and researchers, students and entrepreneurs.
The British Council Creative HubKit explains that “hubs tend to attract people from a range of backgrounds with a focus on developing digital technology, enterprise and social innovation.”
Benefits of creative hubs
Creative hubs offer a range of benefits and services which can be divided into two categories: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ services. (Virani, April 2015, Creative Works London)
'Hard' services are those that are physically provided to members such as having a desk space, equipment, internet access and meeting space. 'Soft' services refer to those that are sometimes less tangible but equally important and often these are built through the community, within the space. This includes the opportunity to network with people, the potential for collaboration on projects and knowledge sharing.
"90% of co-workers stated that they felt an increased level of self-confidence after working in a shared space. Over 60% of co-workers have reported that they have seen an improvement in the standard of their work and are better able to complete tasks on time." – Rowley, January 2016, Tec Marina
Working in a creative hub means being surrounded by people which many creatives see this as a benefit to the space. It encourages them to problem-solve together, bounce ideas off of each other and potentially collaborate on like-minded projects. The role of a hub manager, facilitator and/or producer who is responsible for the hub community is another important characteristic of enabling the hub to work and those in it to achieve their ambitions.
An analysis of over 200 hubs in Europe by the British Council identifies the three main purposes of creative hubs and the percentage of existing hubs that believe they fulfil these purposes:
Helping businesses to connect (84%)
Supporting the local creative economy (76%)
Supporting the local community (74%)
The British Council’s Creative HubKit also lists some further benefits of creative hubs which include: providing support and services, facilitating collaboration and networking, reaching out to research and development centres, communicating to a wider audience and celebrating emerging talent.
Cardiff City Region and creative hubs
Responding to changing work needs, Cardiff has seen a recent increase in the number of workspaces developed for the creative community. These each have a different offer, but all support the growth of this sector, at the same time as building a community of like-minded individuals.