Millions of pounds have been pumped into small, creative ventures by Arts Council England North East. From traditional photographers to digital wizards, it’s helped turn fanciful ideas into hard, business reality. Gloria McShane
The Cultural Business Venture (CVB) initiative has just completed its work, having provided grants from £1,000 to £6,000 to hundreds of new, creative firms in the region for such needs as start-up costs, arts and IT equipment, marketing, promotion and more.
Last year, Julie’s company, Julie Wright Photographic, received a £4,000 CBV grant, which helped her launch what she calls “a digital learning experience for children and young people”.
She runs workshops at such places as holiday play schemes and youth clubs to teach children life skills through the medium of photography.
“It’s about using photography as a tool for confidence building and personal development,” says Julie.
“I wanted to do this because I have lots of experience working with people.”
With the funding, Julie, of Eston, was able to buy digital cameras for the youngsters to use. The grant also paid for a computer and software, for use both in the project and in her photographic work, as well as a back-up camera for her.
The workshops have been successful, with Julie being contacted by local education authorities and charitable groups to deliver them.
“This year has been amazing,” she adds.
She now has taken on a business partner Ann Stonehouse who has an accountancy firm, and provides her with advice on the financial side of the venture.
“I couldn’t have developed these young people’s workshops without the grant,” Julie says. “It was crucial.”
As well as the children’s projects, Julie specialises in family photography. Her clients often prefer black and white images because they fit in with the minimalist-style decor of modern homes, she says.
Other North-east firms to have benefited most recently from CBV grants, include Attention Design and Is-Design, both Middlesbrough-based graphic design and print companies; Babel Digital, which describes itself as a ‘serious games firm’ developing educational tools, and
Construct Photographic, also in Middlesbrough, as well as Light Lab Visualisation, three-dimensional designers in Darlington.
The six firms in total won £33,000 in grants exact breakdown not available and most received help from Middlesbrough’s DigitalCity in securing funding.
The DigitalCity initiative, spearheaded by Middlesbrough Council and Teesside University, aims to nurture SMEs in the fields of digital media and digital technology.
Jonathan Martin, creative industries development officer for Arts Council England, North East, says: “The Cultural Business Venture scheme has had a long, high quality history engaging with equally high quality support from DigitalCity.”
Aid was there when it was most needed
SUNDERLAND glass designer and maker Desiree Hope says she couldn’t have got her business off the ground without the support of a CBV grant – in her case, worth £2,416.
It paid for a laptop and printer, the design of her logo and got her website up and running.
Desiree, 37, from Roker, who works out of the National Glass Centre, was also able to attend the Affordable Art Fair in London, which netted her a number of new commissions.
The CBV grant has been brilliant for me and has allowed me to get things I really needed for the business at a time when I could least afford it but needed it most,” she adds.
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SINCE its inception, the CVB grant scheme has handed out more than £5m in the North East to firms in fashion, crafts, film and video, design, and music.
The scheme has been delivered by Arts Council England, North East, in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.
One NorthEast and the European Regional Development Fund provided funding for the scheme.
The last tranche of CBV grants will be approved shortly. So far the initiative has given backing to 800 firms and helped to start more than 600 new businesses, leading to 730 new jobs and safeguarding at least 530 existing positions.