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Culture is at the heart of successful economies and happy communities. Creativity is present in our everyday lives, lifts our spirits and offers opportunities that contribute to our well-being.

The creative sector accounts for almost a tenth of the UK economy, employs 1.8 million people and generates £56 billion per year. It is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK.

The recent successes at the Oscars for ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ by a British director and ‘Gravity’ with special effects created by a British company, demonstrate the excellence of the UK creative industry.

Kent County Council has identified key areas with growth potential and the creative sector is one of them. It is worth an annual £3.2bn and employs 14,600 people working in advertising, architecture, computer games, crafts, design, digital media, events, fashion, film, music, performing arts, publishing, photography, visual arts…

It includes mainly small and microenterprises (commercial companies, co-operatives, charities, social enterprises, informal groups) and a high number of self-employed artists and creative professionals.

Arts and culture in Kent raise the profile of the county as a tourist destination. Places with a strong cultural identity bring in more visitors, energise the local economy and support local businesses such as B&B’s, restaurants, cafes, shops… The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, Turner Contemporary in Margate and The Creative Foundation in Folkestone for instance make a significant contribution.

Many professional companies are associated with the creative sector in Kent. Events and activities managed by creative businesses and art organisations create work for businesses supplying services and products such as printing, venue hire, catering, business coaching, accounting, insurance…

But this creative sector – innovative, dynamic and ambitious – has yet to be fully appreciated.

We live in art.  We watch films; we listen to music; we make stuff; we hang art on our walls; we make our homes look beautiful; from cars to mobile phones we like design; we wear jewellery and designers’ clothes.

Creativity is essential in the life of your business too.
How you articulate its values is key. This is often expressed through visual communication for a good first impression. Your marketing, your logo, the look of your website, the style of your promotional material, the quality of your business cards, everything is down to graphic design.

Professional quality photographs raise the profile of your business. It is the first thing that attracts attention (this is why tabloids use large images on their front pages).

The look of your premises, reception area, office or shop conveys the atmosphere and quality of your business, as well as your company’s values. Artwork on your walls, nicely designed pieces of furniture or beautiful cushions create an attractive interior for your staff and customers. It has a positive impact and it leads to better productivity.

Creativity can help you be different and stand out. Sending out personalised greeting cards or offering tea in mugs made by local artists will get you noticed by your customers.

Various partnerships can be built between arts and businesses. Sponsorship for instance is an extremely powerful marketing
tool for businesses who can use the arts as a conduit for their
social responsibility and to create a feel-good factor. With art events providing a platform for active promotion, (as opposed to passive advertising), audiences associate sponsors with positive and enjoyable experiences. Everybody wins. Mentoring schemes are also worth considering, with businesses providing advice and helping a culture of entrepreneurship grow.

The development of creative talent in Kent matters to me and I believe it matters to others. Let’s use it and let’s make sure that it has the resources it needs to develop and thrive.

Nathalie Banaigs

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