Creativity can get stifled without all the influences and inspiration that surrounds us on a daily basis. It’s why creatives, entrepreneurs, artists and artisans tend to gravitate towards certain towns and cities in the UK and it’s why planners, looking for that creative stardust to rub off on their delegates, tend to choose those event destinations that attract high concentrations of creative businesses.
As we all venture back into the world, it is time to find some inspiration. Take a look at the places where creativity comes alive in the UK.
Bristol, home to Aardman Animations, the creators of Morph, Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit, is a city in the west of the UK known for its vibrant creative culture.
Aardman’s clay building workshops offer a truly unique experience, providing participants with the opportunity to learn from expert model makers on how to create the world-famous Aardman characters and develop a story around them, whilst simultaneously enhancing communication and team work.
Artist Banksy, plus Upfest, Europe’s largest graffiti festival, have ensured that Bristol is internationally also recognised for its street art. A self-guided walking tour for groups will introduce them to some of Banky’s earliest work, hidden around the city.
Almost 21,000 people are employed directly in Bristol’s creative and media sectors. Bristol Film Office welcomes a growing number of film and TV companies, which make use of the cutting-edge facilities found at Bottle Yard Studios, as well as the city’s diverse filming locations. Recent high-profile British TV productions have included Wolf Hall, Poldark and Sherlock.
Brighton and Hove is home to England’s largest annual arts festival - the Brighton Festival - which takes place each May, as well as the Brighton Fringe festival which is the second biggest fringe festival in the world. These and many other local festivals cultivate Brighton’s exceptional creative and cultural talent, all packed into this vibrant and compact city.
The unofficial LGBTQ+ capital of the UK, Brighton is also known for its open attitude, vivacious clubbing scene and two-day colourful and creative Pride extravaganza.
A great way for groups to learn about Brighton’s LGBTQ+ history is to follow in the footsteps of Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Dusty Springfield and other notable gay icons with a Piers and Queers Tour. This unique exploration of Brighton from a lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans perspective, involves an inspirational 90-minute walk along the beach and around the historic city centre.
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester is all beautiful red brick buildings, former cotton mills and canals. It’s one of Europe’s most successful creative, digital, tech and media hubs and the industry is growing faster here than anywhere else in the UK.
Manchester has always been known for its music scene (The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, The Smiths, Joy Division, Factory Records and The Hacienda), arts (Lowry, Ford Madox Brown, Adolphe Valette), culture, media (the BBC now lives here) and it has a thriving, growing tech scene with digital and creative agencies springing up all over the place.
The city’s key strength lies in how its various physical and geographical clusters – MediaCityUK, Corridor Manchester, Manchester Science Partnerships, The Sharp Project, and the Northern Quarter – collaborate. Collectively they create countless innovation opportunities around media production, software development, augmented reality, digital health, e-commerce, gaming and data analytics, to name just a few.
The ancient spa town of Bath is one of only a few cities in the world to be entirely designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Now the largest city in the county of Somerset, Bath provided its most famous resident, Jane Austen, with her literary inspiration.
A Jane Austen festival takes place in Bath annually each September and groups can walk in her footsteps with a guided tour of the city and a visit to the Jane Austen Centre to discover life during Regency times and how living in Bath inspired the famous author’s works.
Bath was acknowledged as the most productive UK digital tech cluster in 2016 and hosts an annual week-long digital festival to explore this thriving scene.
To fuel continued growth, I-START is a city-based initiative to help local people gain new skills and retrain for roles in the creative and digital sectors. It’s a collaboration between the Bath College, the University of Bath, Bath Spa University, Bath & North East Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). The plan is to create an innovation centre on Bath College’s city centre campus. As well as training, the innovation centre will also work with businesses, helping them to develop new ideas.
The city’s digital industry contributes £97 million to Dundee’s economy, with over 3,500 people working in the sector.
There are over a dozen different video game developers and some of the world’s most-played computer games have been created and developed here, including Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft.
Give groups a fresh perspective of the multi million pound waterfront in Dundee on a boat safari exploring Dundee’s Tay Estuary. Local sights and often seen wildlife include the V&A gallery, The Larick Beacon and the local Bottlenose dolphin population.
York is a creative city and UNESCO agrees. It made York the first UK UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts in December 2014.
The creative industries represent the fastest growing sector of York’s economy and the University of York is home to Digital Creativity Labs, a world centre of excellence for impact-driven research in games, interactive media and the rich space where they converge.
In 2018, the university, in partnership with Screen Yorkshire and the British Film Institute, was awarded £5.5 million to develop a creative cluster around the screen industry. The funding supports film, television, games and related art and media in the city. The sector is growing strongly and predicted to be worth £195 million to the York economy by 2024.
Groups can take creative inspiration from York’s reputation as the UK city of chocolate by visiting York’s Chocolate Story attraction. Take a fascinating fully-guided tour through the history of York’s most famous chocolate-making families and their finest creations.
The inspiring myths and legends that enrich the North Wales culture can be seen everywhere. Whilst Bangor University’s new arts and innovation centre is driving modern-day creativity by encouraging ‘open innovation’.
The Grimshaw-designed building is home to a flexible midscale theatre, named after the world-famous bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, a studio theatre which holds up to 120 people, a 200-seater digital cinema and a wide range of facilities for students.
Theatr Bryn Terfel can transform from a 450-seat traditional proscenium-arch theatre experience, to theatre-in-the-round, to standing-only gigs for 500.
For maximum creative inspiration, groups should visit Portmeirion village, the backdrop for the 1960's cult classic TV series, The Prisoner.
Situated on a private peninsula overlooking stunning coastal scenery, Portmeirion was designed as an Italian village, rich in colour and architectural styles. Its central piazza features a fountain pool, Gloriette, Gothic Pavilion, the Bristol Colonnade and a giant chessboard.
Nottingham is a creative city of historic rebels and pioneers including Robin Hood, Lord Byron, and DH Lawrence. One of Nottingham’s most famous and successful modern-day sons is fashion designer, Sir Paul Smith.
Starting his career in fashion aged 15 with a job as an errand boy in a Nottingham clothing warehouse, Paul Smith’s designs for the showroom displays caught the eye of his boss.
This led to a position as the factory’s menswear buyer, aged 17. By 1976, Paul showed his first menswear collection in Paris under the Paul Smith label.
Paul Smith is now a global phenomenon. His collections are designed in Nottingham and London before being wholesaled to 35 countries and shops around the world (including 200 throughout Japan). Sir Paul’s most stunning retail venture however is Willoughby House, a five-floor, Grade II listed building in Nottingham for men’s and women’s collections. The shop’s interior has been designed by Sir Paul and complements the 18th century building’s history.