Creative Policy in the Devolved Tees Valley

In 2014 the leaders of the five local authorities of the Tees Valley region signed a city region deal with the UK government to bring investment and devolved decision making to the area. This deal came with the requirement that the region elect a Mayor to lead a combined authority structure including the five council leaders. The deal was one of the first agreements to specifically make reference to culture stating its importance in leading economic growth, and value the cultural and historical assets sitting within the Tees Valley.

Teesside University is the main HEI in the region and has established a strong working relationship with the new devolved administration. Part of this relationship has seen the university provide innovative third mission programmes like Creative Fuse North East to help creative business grow but also providing creative solutions to problems across a variety of policy agendas. This panel introduces the cultural context of the Tees Valley, before exploring the interventions Creative Fuse North East has made to inspire creative solutions to policymaking in the region. In turn it will also explore the university and local creative economy as policy objects.

The context of the Tees Valley will be set by Teesside University Creative Fuse Project lead Sharon Paterson who will also chair the panel.

Tees Valley –  Culture as Cornerstone of Social and Economic Development (Sharon Paterson, Teesside University)

The Tees Valley Combined Authority was created in April 2016 bringing together five local authorities namely Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees. The purpose of TVCA is to drive economic growth and job creation in the area.

Following the formation of TVCA (which is also serves as the Local Enterprise Partnership for the Tees Valley) the combined authority embarked upon a consultation designed to provide a rigorous ‘refresh’ of the strategic economic plan which uniquely resulted in the inclusion of Culture and Tourism as a strategic priority in the SEP.

This innovative and imaginative approach recognises that the Tees Valley is home to a wide range of digital, creative and cultural businesses who play a significant role in driving success and growth in the local economy, as well as acknowledging that a vibrant cultural ecology contributes to a shared sense of place, attracts and retains a skilled workforce, contributes to positive outcomes in health and well-being and improvements in educational attainment.

This paper introduces the wider context of the panel discussions which will address how research at Teesside University through the Creative North East Project is exploring the potential for creative policy making across the Tees Valley. It will also examine both the wider North East and the impact of initiatives such as the North East Cultural Partnership Case for Culture as well as considering the Tees Valley as a model for an ambitious and authentic approach to place making and place shaping.

Arts and Place-making: A Commitment to Creative Involvement (Paul Stewart, Teesside University)

This paper is addressing the role of a cultural organisation (mima) in regeneration on the ground and social housing policy. It aims to understand the role of an art gallery to inspire aspiration from residents, and a want for culture to play a strong role in redevelopment. The research is addressing the need for quality social housing concepts that address the needs of a provision that is lacking across the country.

Following Assemble’s turner prize win many artists have also been exploring how house building can be an art from as a way to meet such a demand including groups as the Nomadic School and Planne Budde. Demand has come from the community and Middlesbrough Council to reverse the decline of the ward and this research paper focuses on learning programming in galleries as a role to build commitment from all actors for future housing projects that address the need for community centred demands.

The main question is how to approach current community issues through a gallery as a spaces of collective emancipation? The theme is in developing a commitment to involvement from how multiple actors to design what social housing can look like and through this process develop strategies for urban planning from the community of North Ormesby.

Creative Fuse: Responding to the Digital Policy Agenda (Sam Murray, Teeside University)

In April 2017 UK Culture Minister Matt Hancock launched a consultation for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport entitled ‘Culture is Digital’ exploring the links between the cultural sector and digital business. The consultation considered what combinations could be yielded through unlock digital potential of cultural forms. Previous to the announcement of this consultation, the main funding body for cultural organisations in England, Arts Council England, had already responded to this agenda by asking all of their National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) to devise digital strategies, as a requirement to holding NPO status.

In 2018 Creative Fuse North East commissioned a series of pilot project to encourage a fusion of digital thinking into creative business. Out of over 20 commissioned projects, at least 5 were from cultural or heritage organisations responding to a need to further explore the role of digital in their infrastructures and the innovations it could provide. These pilot projects provided a 3 month space to try out an idea for digital innovation in a low risk environment, driven by a co-production between cultural organisations and academics.

This paper explores the case study of one of these pilot projects entitled North East Culture is Digital, in collaboration with Festival of Thrift, a Tees Valley based festival of sustainable culture and Theatre Hullabaloo, a centre of excellence for Children’s Theatre. The pilot works with both companies to explore the possibilities of digital commissioning or co-production as part of their thinking towards digital strategies as cultural organisations.

This paper detail how Creative Fuse has assisted cultural organisations in the Tees Valley through the pilot project format and assesses the potential impact of out interventions. It also explores what lessons have been learnt through introducing digital into the cultural sphere and how such findings could further influence the development of policy in the devolved Tees Valley around the issues.

With Britain leaving the European Union in 2019 there has been a shift in the thinking of UK research councils, looking to replace European Regional Development Funding with university lead practical business development and innovation projects such as the forthcoming Creative Clusters programme. This paper will also make a consideration of the implications of such agendas in shaping a regional post-Brexit response to the scale-up agenda within the Creative, Digital and IT Sector.

Place making, the University and its Community: Examining the Value of Teesside University Partnerships in Regeneration and Place Making (Natasha Vall, Teesside University, and James Beighton, Tees Valley Arts/Teesside University)

Teesside University’s third mission strategy includes a civic commitment to enriching the social, economic and cultural lives of its students, as well as the communities it serves. This is reflected through a number of local strategic partnerships within the arts and cultural sector. The most highly profiled of these is that between Middlesbrough Council, Teesside University and mima (Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art). Beyond this much profiled relationship a number of new partnerships have evolved that similarly emphasise social engagement with arts and culture through participation.

Many of these organisations have critically appraised large scale spatial regeneration and gentrification projects for their alienating impacts upon local communities. Such partners present interesting challenges for Universities that have their own large scale urban development programmes.

This paper will explore the tensions between place making and regeneration that have coalesced around local provision for culture and the arts in recent years. It will focus on the evolving relationship between the University and Tees Valley Arts, a participatory arts organisation, working across the five boroughs of the Tees Valley. It will explore the challenges and opportunities of this partnership in developing policy with a new combined authority that has a strategic focus on arts, culture and place making.

With the Tees Valley set to bid for the UK City of Culture title for 2025 the partnerships forged between the University, Tees Valley Arts and the combined authority will provide an opportunity to redesign the region’s cultural offer whilst reflect on its heritage.

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