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Spatial Dimensions of Inequalities in Cultural & Creative Industries in the UK

Introduction to the theme of Spatial Inequality in the UK's CCIs amidst polycrisis.

Published onOct 23, 2023
Spatial Dimensions of Inequalities in Cultural & Creative Industries in the UK

Spatial inequalities represent a pervasive theme across various facets of societal and economic life in the United Kingdom (UK). A salient aspect of these spatial inequalities is the dichotomy between the core and periphery. Notably, the South-East of the country takes centre stage in terms of financial and social development, with London serving as the epicentre of the economy and financial progress.

Following the deindustrialization era in the UK, the South of England assumed the role of an "escalator" for mobility within the British Isles (Fielding, 1992, 1995; Miles & Leguina, 2018). Consequently, this has led to a significant internal migration of skilled professionals and creatives who relocate to London or other hubs in the South East, aiming to participate in the burgeoning creative economy. Undoubtedly, London has been a leading force in the European Creative Economy, attracting numerous professionals and aspiring young artists prior to Brexit (Montalto et al., 2021). This phenomenon is a mutually beneficial relationship, as the UK, particularly the South East and London, provides a conducive environment for development, while workers from other regions in the UK, as well as European migrants, contribute significantly to its success.

Ascertaining the precise effects of Brexit remains uncertain. This section will endeavour to explore the ramifications of Brexit, Covid-19, and Austerity on the UK's Creative Industries—a crucial segment of the economy that contributed £115.9bn in 2019, accounting for 5.9% of the UK GVA that has been accelerating faster than the UK economy since 2011 (DCMS, 2019).

DCMS Economic Estimates 2019 (provisional): Gross Value Added (2019), Available at: DCMS Economic Estimates 2019 (provisional): Gross Value Added - GOV.UK (

In the context of the UK's Culture & Creative Industries (CCIs), London has undoubtedly emerged as a frontrunner in driving the Creative Economy. Its preeminent position as a thriving hub for cultural and creative endeavours is well-recognized. However, what truly sets the UK's CCIs apart is the intriguing phenomenon of geographical clustering.

Within the vibrant city of London, a remarkable clustering effect is observed, wherein approximately one-third of the national CCIs gravitate towards this cultural epicentre. This concentration of creative enterprises and talents within the boundaries of London is indeed noteworthy. However, in contrast, the North of England, despite its regional significance and diverse potential, does not experience the same level of representation in the creative clustering phenomenon. Here, the clustering effect is less pronounced, with only one-fifth of the overall creative enterprises and activities being located in this region (Mateos-Garcia & Hasan, 2016).

The concept of clustering in the context of CCIs holds tremendous importance and offers various compelling benefits for the Creative Economy. Such agglomeration of creative entities within close geographical proximity fosters an environment ripe for collaboration, innovation, and exchange of ideas. The proximity to abundant resources and infrastructure enhances efficiency and facilitates seamless interactions within the creative community. Moreover, the availability of a skilled and diverse workforce at the doorstep of these creative clusters contributes to their dynamic growth and vitality (Picard & Karlsson, 2011). Furthermore, spatial clustering allows for the creation of a conducive space for experimentation and development, providing a nurturing ground for emerging talents to flourish and establish their creative pursuits (Pratt & Jeffcutt, 2009).

Local Knowledge and Talent Capabilities in Creative Clusters

HESA qualifier database, HE-BCI Survey, HEFCE Research Excellence Framework results; Nesta analysis.

This section will attempt to examine the significant role played by Austerity, Brexit, and Covid-19 in reshaping the spatial landscape of the Creative Industries.

Commencing with Austerity, one of the notable ramifications that have emerged pertains to the issue of housing, with affordable housing and studio spaces becoming increasingly scarce over time. Since the 1980s and 1990s, ACME and Spaces, two artist-led studio developers, have played a pivotal role by providing low-rent spaces for artists (Dovey et al., 2006). Moreover, funding policies implemented by government agencies have prioritized financial development, leading to a concentration of funding in the most prominent clusters, primarily London and the South East, further exacerbating regional disparities between the North and East (Pratt, 2021).

In response to these challenges, the UK Government has introduced the 'Levelling Up' policy plan, aiming to foster development across all regional areas in the UK. Additionally, the BBC has recently launched the 'BBC Out of London' initiative, envisaging the relocation of key departments and staff outside of the London metropolitan area. This move aims to address spatial inequalities in the left-behind regions, stimulate creative job opportunities, and bolster creative clusters beyond the confines of the South East.

Brexit, with its spatial implications, has been a subject of considerable attention, particularly evident in the Brexit vote. It is noteworthy that the majority of the left-behind areas voted in favour of Brexit (Miles & Leguina, 2018). The full extent of Brexit's impact remains uncertain, but its implications for the UK's Creative Industries cannot be ignored. Before Brexit, over 52% of London's creative businesses had employed non-UK workers, and subsequent to the vote, many of these workers chose to leave the UK, thereby posing significant challenges to the pluralistic and diverse creative ecosystem of the UK's CCIs (Montalto et al., 2021).

The advent of Covid-19 has brought about significant changes, particularly in the way we perceive and interact with space. With the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid working practices, our traditional notions of geographical location have been reevaluated. Working from home has become an integral part of many individuals' professional lives, rendering the physical location of residence less significant, as individuals can now work from outside the South-East while remaining connected and productive.

During and after the pandemic, the UK Government's Covid support schemes, notably the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and Cultural Recovery Fund, played a pivotal role in bolstering the resilience of the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs) (Bakhshi, 2021). The CCIs demonstrated remarkable growth compared to other sectors of the UK economy during this period, underscoring their ability to adapt and innovate.

Changes to the UK economy and the creative industries sector, January 2020–September 2022

House of Lords Library. (2021, March 25). Arts and Creative Industries: The Case for a Strategy. Lords Library. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from

This section will delve deeper into the aforementioned issues and will draw insights from interviews with prominent professionals in the CCIs as well as policymakers. By conducting these interviews, we seek to gain a comprehensive understanding of the nuanced impact of Austerity, Brexit and Covid-19 on the perception of space and the significance of government support in shaping the resilience and growth of the CCIs in the face of unprecedented challenges.


Bakhshi, H., Burger, C., & Easton, E. (2021). Insights for policymakers. Creative places: growing the creative industries across the UK. Nesta.

DCMS Economic Estimates 2019 (provisional): Gross Value Added (2019). Available at: DCMS Economic Estimates 2019 (provisional): Gross Value Added - GOV.UK (accessed 28 July 2023).

Dovey, J., Moreton, S., Sparke, S., & Sharpe, B. (2016). The practice of cultural ecology: Network connectivity in the creative economy. Cultural Trends, 25(2), 87–103.

Fielding, A.J. (1992). Migration and Social Mobility: South East England as an Escalator Region. Regional Studies, 26(1), 1–15.

Fielding, A.J. (1995). Migration and Social Change: A Longitudinal Study of the Social Mobility of “Immigrants”. European Journal of Population/Revue Européenne.

HESA qualifier database, HE-BCI Survey, HEFCE Research Excellence Framework results; Nesta analysis.

Mateos-Garcia, J. B., & Hasan. (2016). The geography of creativity in the UK. Nesta. Available at: (Accessed on 28 July 2023).

Miles, A., & Leguina, A. (2018). Socio-spatial mobilities and narratives of class identity in Britain. British Journal of Sociology, 69, 1063-1095.

Montalto, V., Panella, F., & Sacco, P. L. (2021). What does Brexit mean for UK cultural and creative cities? European Urban and Regional Studies, 28(1), 47–57.

Picard, R. G., & Karlsson, C. (Eds.). (2011). Media Clusters. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Pratt, A. C., & Jeffcutt, P. (2009). In A. C. Pratt, & J. Paul (Eds.), Creativity and Innovation in the Cultural Economy. London: Routledge.

Pratt, A.C. (2021). Creative hubs: A critical evaluation. City, Culture and Society, 24.

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