The Maker. Has the rural cluster come of age?

Agglomeration economies are becoming increasingly important feature of the knowledge economy  (Rosenthal & Strange, 2004). The Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge has become an important rural creative cluster supporting dozens of graphic design and brand design specialists such as Kreative Bomb (see http://www.kreativebomb.com/about.html).

This post looks to challenge the assumed dominance of urban clustering and instead suggest that creative makers such as Kreative Bomb can benefit from clustering in a rural setting.

Financially:

Cost is a key issue facing all creative makers. Recent criticism of the costs associated with businesses moving to urban clusters such as Media City in Manchester further support the view that makers are better off clustering in areas with lower business rates and rent rates such as Hebden Bridge. Studies such as (Banks et al, 2000) demonstrate the importance of risk sharing amongst micro-scale enterprises. Support networks such as (http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/news/2013/225.htmlCommunity) allow makers to attract investment locally without being at the mercy of large banks or other lenders.

Community, living and inspiration:

Creative makers thrive when they exist within a community of other makers. This allows creative synergy between the different makers. Having looked at Kreative Bomb’s blog (see web link above) it is easy to see how many of the creations are made in collaboration with other makers. In addition the rural and tranquil setting offers an inspirational environment for creative makers to engage with nature and the rural environment rather than the less tranquil and distracting city environment. Furthermore the creative cluster in Hebdon Bridge is a thriving community which interacts through it’s own online network (http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/news/2013/225.html).

Advances in technology mean that proximity to the client has become less of an issue, because having a broadband internet connection means that media type businesses can effectively operate from anywhere in the modern economy. Harvey et al (2012) shows the importance of having internal connections between different makers in the cluster called ‘Krowji’ in the town of Redruth, Cornwall. In addition there needs to be strong relations between rural creative clusters and government. Government must help facilitate the growth of such clusters through taxation and use development council revenue to both further the appeal of rural creative clusters to outsiders and also improve the skills of local people so they can benefit from makers operating close to one another.

Increased interest in the rural cluster from thinkers such as (Gibson, 1998, 2002; Bell and Jayne, 2010) has raised some important questions. Where do rural clusters fit in a wider geography of space. The rural cluster offers a modern challenge to the traditional core-periphery model which for so long restricted makers to one realm or the other. Now clusters such as those at Hebdon Bridge offer a core within the periphery, disrupting conventional space and power ontologies.

References:

Banks, M., Lovatt, A., O’Connor, J., & Raffo, C. (2000). Risk and trust in the cultural industries. Geoforum31(4), 453-464.

Bell, D., & Jayne, M. (2010). The creative countryside: Policy and practice in the UK rural cultural economy. Journal of Rural Studies26(3), 209-218.

Gibson, C. (1998). ” We sing our home, We dance our land”: indigenous self-determination and contemporary geopolitics in Australian popular music.Environment and Planning D16, 163-184.

Gibson, C. (2002). Rural transformation and cultural industries: popular music on the New South Wales Far North Coast. Australian Geographical Studies,40(3), 337-356.

Harvey, D. C., Hawkins, H., & Thomas, N. J. (2012). Thinking creative clusters beyond the city: People, places and networks. Geoforum43(3), 529-539.

Rosenthal, S. S., & Strange, W. C. (2004). Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies. Handbook of regional and urban economics4, 2119-2171.

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