Arts' business ambitions for our region

Posted on Friday 24th June 2016

The Arts are of value to every industry, business leaders were told this week at the University’s first 'Business & the Arts Breakfast' seminar.

The event involved a panel discussion by leaders of arts organisations and business experts, talking through the benefits and the challenges of working in cross-industry partnership and the region’s aspirations to create an arts hub.

The discussion was chaired by Bolton School of the Arts’ Head of School, Sam Johnson, with panel members Director of Castlefield Gallery & Co-chair of Contemporary Visual Art Manchester, Kwong Lee; Creative Director of Absolute Simon Allman; General Manager of Bolton FM, Keith Harris; Ursula Greenwood, Director of Edinburgh Weavers; and Textiles and Surface Design Programme Leader at the University of Bolton, Donna Claypool.


The panel considered different topics affecting business and the arts, including the importance of cultural organisations, how universities and businesses can help the growth of the arts and, in particular, what Bolton can do, as part of Greater Manchester, to help make the region an arts hub.

Kwong Lee spoke of how businesses can engage with cultural development and illustrated this by explaining his collaboration with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce who are committed to working with artists. He also went on to speak about Glasgow’s development as an arts hub over the past 30 years and his ambition that Greater Manchester could replicate this in the future. However, he stressed the need for support from local authorities and industry to enable this.

‘It’s also about breaking down those barriers within the University in terms of the way we teach professional and transferable skills,’ added Donna Claypool. ‘It’s always difficult for students to make that first step when they leave university and what they lack is those kick-starter incubation units.’


‘We need to promote the arts in every business,’ said Ursula Greenwood, Director of Edinburgh Weavers. ‘I think there is a little bit of pigeon holing, but the arts are of value in every industry. Someone from textile design can be part of another industry, like the automobile industry, because every business requires talented creative people. We need to promote that beyond the specific industry that the people train in.’

Sam Johnson gave the example of the University working with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to create an innovative, industry-focussed BA (Hons) degree in Theatre enabling students to study the critical and practical aspects of theatre in both university and professional settings.