Mapping and examining the determinants of England’s rural creative microclusters

Velez, Jorge; Siepel, Josh; Hill, Inge and Rowe, Frances (2022). Mapping and examining the determinants of England’s rural creative microclusters. National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise, Newcastle University., Newcastle.



Creative industries are increasingly being recognised as potential drivers of economic growth in rural areas, and creative industries clusters are one key part of that potential. There is some evidence that these rural clusters have distinct characteristics to those of urban creative clusters, in terms of firms’ location decisions as well as configurations of agglomeration and clustering. This study aims to identify the main drivers of clustering of rural creative industries in England, and to compare these drivers to those of clustering in urban settings. This report uses pre-pandemic web scraped data of 184,791 creative industries organisations in England to identify rural creative microclusters of geographically proximate creative firms. Our cluster mapping demonstrates that rural microclusters are widely spread across the country, with about one-third of the rural firms and organisations in our sample are operating in one of the small clusters. Our results for rural clusters are also largely in line with previous findings, which have mainly focused on urban settings and the importance of place-based assets (such as cultural institutions and social capital), location and diverse economies. We find that the drivers of clustering in rural areas are not inherently different from urban areas, apart from a weak link between rural microclustering and informal social networks. This opens avenues for place-based policy making to support microcluster formation and development on the basis of cultural regeneration alongside other forms of economic development. We argue therefore that interventions in ‘levelling up’ the UK based on creative clusters should champion, rather than exclude, rural creative clusters.

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