Birmingham is not only the second largest city in the UK but its second largest media centre.
The West Midlands region supports over 3,000 creative businesses employing more than 20,000 people, numbers which have grown by almost 20% since 2003. This focus on creativity is set to increase as Birmingham City Council is in the midst of its Big City Plan, which involves regeneration and developments that will see Birmingham evolve into a connected and visible city for both residents and visitors.
This plan encourages and supports the creative industries to flourish and locations such as Eastside, the Jewellery Quarter and Custard Factory will provide the opportunities needed to do so.
The creative industries include new media, publishing, music, photography, journalism, radio, art, design, jewellery, PR and marketing, all of which are embraced in Birmingham making these range of businesses a valuable asset for the West Midlands economy.
Though this growth has been evident for over six years, it is not until recently that there has been a real push and a great deal more funding support and advice out there for creative entrepreneurs to take that leap of faith and either start their own business or back someone else’s.
Media Talent Bank
So if this commitment to expanding the creative industries has been around for so long, what products and businesses have come out of it so far? Have they been successful? Do they still exist?
These questions began buzzing around my head as I was starting to plan my final year project with three fellow peers. The aim was to find a gap in the market or contribute to a functioning product to make it stronger. So what were these existing projects and was there anything anybody had missed so far in the evolving condition of the creative industries?
And yes… there was something missing! An online network for creative students, graduates, freelancers and businesses where they can connect with one another on a professional basis. This was a product that we were going to create.
As research progressed, we were pointed in the direction of Screen Media Lab and its website Media Talent Bank. This served the same purpose as our project and so we jumped on board with them and are currently managing it.
Media Talent Bank was the result of Birmingham City University receiving a £2.7 million pot of money to encourage new media production in the region in 2003. This has led to the creation of Screen Media Lab, an umbrella business to other smaller enterprises including Media Content Lab, Media Skills and Notion Studio, which all provide equipment and expertise for growing media businesses.
This is an example of how funding can encourage such projects, yet there is a concern they can get lost, forgotten about and become obsolete and it is important to remember these existing projects and support them with equal enthusiasm as new emerging ones.
What do students know about social networking?
Since its launch in 2008, Media Talent Bank has increased its members and has had many hits to the website through its blog but as many have described it, it just sits there. It seems that it was launched at a time when social networking was becoming more and more popular. This would lead anyone to believe that this model for an online database would work but there is a lot more to it than that.
We found the networking aspect was not working online and decided it was time to take it offline. As PR specialists, our task is to create awareness of Media Talent Bank amongst the creative student and business communities throughout the city.
A workshop has already been held on social media with students invited to come and listen to a range of experts from Birmingham’s online scene. Its purpose was not only to educate but get the word out about Media Talent Bank and what it can offer, so it was not exclusive to members of the site.
The next move is to hold a networking evening where Media Talent Bank’s student, graduate and freelance members are able to showcase their work for businesses and employers who are already linked with the website. We will also be reaching out to other creative businesses who want to get involved and support the talent of the future.
In these instances, Media Talent Bank acts as the enabler bringing people together and creating opportunities for young creatives to meet and talk with employers in a relaxed, informal environment.
Overall, the challenge has been to refresh the website and revitalise the engagement that it offers. This is important because Media Talent Bank has the potential to become a very influential tool in developing and encouraging talent in Birmingham which is exactly what the council and leading figures in the creative sector want.
It’s up to us to make it happen and use it as an example of how funding can create something beneficial and not get lost amongst the hundreds of competing projects.