Developing a business hub for the creative sector

,  17 June 2014

Andrea Stark, CEO of High House Production Park, reflects on the development of a creative industries business hub in Thurrock, Essex.

High House Production Park (HHPP) has been developed with a key mission in mind: to drive economic growth led by the creative industries.

The companies based here have chosen to join forces, not only to do business, but also to collaborate with the education sector to inspire the next generation to work in our industry.

In so doing, we are all part of the Building a Creative Nation campaign, contributing what we can to help train the future creative workforce and to support young people to seek careers in one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

A new model for creative business

High House Production Park is the result of long-term collaboration between the Royal Opera House, Creative & Cultural Skills, Acme Studios and Thurrock Council.

The companies based here have chosen to join forces and collaborate with the education sector. 

In 2010 we completed the initial development of our 14-acre site and opened the Royal Opera House's Bob and Tamar Manoukian Set Production Workshop.

In 2013 Creative & Cultural Skills open the doors to The Backstage Centre, and later that year work was also completed on the Acme High House Artists’ Studios.

In April 2014 Thurrock Music Hub relocated to the Park, and just this month construction began on the Royal Opera House Costume Centre, a specialist storage and production space that will host the first degree course in Costume Construction, delivered in partnership with South Essex College.

A local leadership alliance

This development is driven by a growing alliance of local leaders. Our collective capacity and ambition has enabled change to happen and is continuing to achieve great things.  

In Thurrock, we have recognised that low educational attainment, poor skill levels, and social and cultural insularity will result in poor growth.

But there is huge potential in this area:

Our collective capacity and ambition has enabled change to happen.

  • There is an 18 mile stretch of historic Thames river frontage.
  • We’re right next door to a city that is world-famous for its creative output.
  • We have a young and increasingly diverse population.
  • We have land to build on and space to offer to London’s burgeoning creative businesses looking for an affordable place to live and work.
  • Local leaders are committed to harnessing this potential to provide better opportunities for local young people.

As Thurrock Council CEO Graham Farrant said, “If Thurrock’s young people do not have access to professional and managerial jobs from the regeneration programme, then we will have failed.”

Lessons from High House Production Park

As a hub for cultural learning and industry-led training, High House Production Park is playing a key role in improving the offer of this area.

We’ve achieved an enormous amount of success already. At the root of this is the willingness of High House Production Park’s occupants to actively collaborate to reach a common goal.

In our work we deliberately create interdependency. We pool our expertise to shape wider policy and strategy to embed change.

We work out how to get the best from making joint investments, always thinking about how to make change stick and how to make activity financially sustainable.

In effect, we are delivering a shared prospectus for growth.

We’ve learnt a few key lessons about what is needed to unlock value on this scale: 

We are delivering a shared prospectus for growth.

  • A clear vision – we have a bold, confident view of High House Production Park and champion its emblematic role in Thurrock as a whole
  • A compelling story – we know that the presentation of data and evidence is not of itself enough to draw people in and inspire action
  • A DIY mindset – we would need to wait a long time for the ideal set of resources to come our way, so we innovate to create new opportunities for ourselves. We know we can dig deep into the combined acumen and experience of Thurrock partners.

The value of creative partnerships

When I became CEO of High House Production Park I could see that greater impact would be achieved by unlocking the value of a park-wide partnership, so I’ve dedicated my resources to supporting this collaboration.

It’s worked – I have two staff, but share services and barter the rest of what is needed to operate. It means I can be of service to the other partners and enable them to bring to life a clear and bold vision of the future everyday.

A few years ago, High House was a few derelict buildings and wasteland. Now, the local area has an expanding creative industries business zone.

We are putting Thurrock on the map as a leading light for our sector, and at the same time enabling real progressive change in the expectations of local communities.

Find our more about the events and facilities at High House Production Park.


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