In My Opinion: Mark Gorman: One year in and Edinburgh’s creative economy is ‘oxygenated’ by Creative Edinburgh

THE digital, media and creative industries are estimated to be worth £6 billion a year to Scotland. To put that into perspective, it’s the fourth-biggest industry in the country, after energy, construction and financial services. And we all know the fortunes of two of those crucial sectors right now.

It’s bigger than tourism, it’s said to be growing at five per cent a year and it employs 60,000 people in relatively-high value jobs. What’s more, a third of them are believed to be in Edinburgh.

Does that surprise you? It certainly did when I researched the figures. The fact of the matter is it’s a very large industry that is disproportionately represented in the capital and it adds up to the fact that Edinburgh’s creative economy is £2 billion a year and growing.

Yes you read that right. £2 billion. Maybe that’s why research published by NESTA three years ago identified Edinburgh as one of ten ‘creative hotspots’ in Britain.

You’d expect a city so strongly associated with financial services, tourism and education to make these critical and traditional industries the bedrock of its economic strategy, and it does, but the rapidly-emerging creative industries is the fourth focus of economic investment in Edinburgh and is our frontline sector in the vital and expanding knowledge economy.

As defined by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the creative industries comprise advertising, architecture, art and antiques, computer games, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, music, performing arts, publishing, software, television and radio.

The importance of the sector is clearly identified in the City Council’s excellent economic development strategy paper: The 3P’s (People, Pound and Place).

That’s why, in late 2011, the economic development team invested in the rejuvenation of Creative Edinburgh, a rather recumbent body, almost a cadaver, nursed along for the best part of a decade by a well-meaning and enthusiastic team of practitioners, but hamstrung by a lack of financial oxygen and therefore little in the way of activity.

One year on and Creative Edinburgh, charged with delivering the people part of the 3P’s strategy, is leaping like Bambi on Red Bull into 2013 with 50 events already planned, its first event of the year well over-subscribed, 560 members, almost as many Facebookers and over 2,500 twitter followers.

That’s over ten per cent of the sector. And it’s just the start.

Some of it can be ascribed to that all-important financial injection from the City of Edinburgh Council (and Creative Scotland), some to the outstanding efforts of its directors (Lynsey Smith and Janine Matheson), and some to its board (which I chair) and its steering group.

But I think it’s fundamentally because the concept is ‘of its time’ and has finally found its mojo in a way that the almost exponential growth reflects. Creative Edinburgh’s online presence feels vital and connected.

This is no ‘old boys’ club’. It’s no ghetto for one disgruntled creative industry silo. It’s a young, energetic, collegiate network of cross-sector practitioners who believe in what could be possible and who underpin Creative Edinburgh with optimism.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you work in the creative industries and you’d do well to come along to one of our heartening events.

Why not start with a biggy? The Making and Breaking of the Creative Industries at the Dovecot Studios on the 21st of next month.

It’s part-funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and is part of the ERDF-funded Creative Collaboration Project. It promises to be challenging and exciting stuff.

You can probably tell that I’m proud of Creative Edinburgh’s newly-found vitality and I hope you’ll come and see why.

Mark Gorman is an independent marketing consultant operating under the banner, ‘Think Hard’. He has over 25 years of experience in advertising, design, direct marketing, PR, professional writing (especially blogging), business mentoring, digital marketing and research. He was co-founder of the former advertising agency, 1576.