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Project Design

In this section, we will take you through the design process for the 'Place' focussed 'Creative Workforce Workshops'; from selecting our workshop areas, identifying participants and commissioning our artist rapporteurs. As you will hopefully see, we have done what we can to apply a set of consistent principles across the key decision making moments; using our experience working with professional researchers to inform our approach.

Selecting Workshop Locations


Given our commitment to the appropriate renumeration of all participants and our relatively small project budget, we concluded that we would limit our focus to England, with the express hope of extending ‘Creative Workforce Workshops’ to the devolved administrations in a future series.


We applied the following criteria-based logic to select three final locations:  


  • The place type - With ‘Place’ at the centre of this round of workshops, and with such a mix of urban, suburban and rural working locations across England, we wanted to ensure the working realities of these different types of places were as fairly represented in the workshops as possible. We set out by identifying several regions that would give us a geographic balance across the North, South, East and West of England. As we located towns and cities, we continued to monitor the balance of urban and rural typography, recognising the distinctive differences the creative and cultural sectors experience in these types of locations

  • An established yet under-supported workforce - We felt it was important that chosen places should contain a relatively healthy level of creative and cultural activity to increase the likelihood of the workshops including representation from each of our priority subsectors and a full diversity of workers. In addition, we wanted to hear from parts of England that have historically received comparatively low levels of public investment or engagement for creative and cultural activity – both capital and revenue. In the same breath, we wanted to take the opportunity afforded to us to unearth fresh perspectives from less explored places in the country. We therefore looked at both the ACE ‘Priority Places’ methodology [1] and the PEC’s Creative Clusters/Micro-Clusters [2] work, and combined this with anecdotal evidence to identify several potential areas, which we then sifted against our own selection priorities. 

  • Local buy-in - We firmly believed that partnerships with local creative and cultural organisations and the workforce would be crucial to the overall aims of the project. Therefore, before selecting our final places, we reached out to several local and regional organisations in each place to ask for approval and support before proceeding. In areas where we did not get this, we did not proceed. We are aware that this approach is not ideal, as it may have resulted in the voices of workers in very underserved communities missing out; we’ll be considering this further if we design any future ‘Creative Workforce Workshop’ activities. A full list of our final partners and partner organisations can be found the 'Project Partners' page, but we’d like to give our thanks, upfront, to them for hosting our discussions, sharing with us their approaches to working locally and helping advertise the opportunity to local freelance creatives.


Based on all of the above, we landed on three unique locations across England:

The City of Truro in Cornwall

The London Borough of Croydon

The City of Rotherham in South Yorkshire 


Selecting Participants


What do we mean by the creative and cultural sector workforce?


The UK Government defines the UK’s creative sector as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” [3]. Similarly, it defines the cultural sector as “as those industries with a cultural object at the centre of the industry” [4]. Based on these definitions, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) categorise the economic activity generated by the creative and cultural sectors using Standard Industrial Classification 2007 (SIC). This breaks the two umbrella sectors, into 18 sub-sectors [5] and 51 individual SIC categorised activities that range from of publishing, film, tv and music production to arts and heritage-based activities, to name just a few. The UK’s creative and cultural sector generated approximately £116 billion GVA and was responsible for approximately 2 million jobs.


From the latest DCMS sector estimates (April 2021-March 2022), we can see that 32.6% of the total workforce in the creative and cultural sectors are self-employed - over double the proportion across all UK sectors (14.4%) [6]. While a disproportionately high percentage of people working in the creative and cultural sectors are entirely self-employed or freelance, it is also quite common for these workers to fit into ‘atypical’ working patterns – something of a catch all term we use for those that may have part-time, or a form of semi-regular or fixed employment, which supplements, or is supplemented by, additional self-employed or freelance project-based income.This kind of work was perhaps best summed up by one of our ‘Creative Workforce Workshops’ participants as: “doing a little bit of everything.


Finding participants representative of the workforce 


Given the breath and variance within the creative and cultural subsectors, we decided to limit our focus for this project to a small selection of subsectors with a representative balance of freelance, self-employed and atypical employment working patterns within them. To decide where to focus our advocacy efforts, we balanced the full list of DCMS subsectors against those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic [7] , thereby prioritising groups that might need more immediate support in the economic uncertainty ahead for 2023.


Whilst we wanted to discuss how the pandemic had negatively impacted certain subsectors workforces, we also didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to identify opportunities that different ways of working presents; we therefore wanted to make sure we had representation from subsectors that been impacted ‘more positively’ too. We set out to identify participants from the four subsectors below: 

Music, performing and visual arts / Arts / Crafts​

Music, performing and visual arts was a sub-sector that suffered a disproportional loss in terms of both the number of hours lost and those leaving the sector overall, with a slower recovery projected through 2022-2023. Given that this sector has an even higher proportion of freelance, self-employed and atypical workers (estimated at 70%), we knew this would be a key sub-sectors to target.

We therefore paired the Music, Performing and Visual Arts with the closely associated subsectors of 'Arts' and 'Crafts'; thereby focusing our short, two-hour discussions on issues relevant to similar subsectoral activity for this round of workshops.  



Publishing was one the sub-sectors to see an increase in demand, both in the number of hours worked and the number of people joining the sector since the pandemic. Although the growth in the sector is always encouraging, the ‘Culture in Crisis’ findings reported several downsides associated with increased demand on the sector, including burnout and associated well-being challenges.

Sample size 


After the past few years of webcam-based interaction, and given our emphasis on making a place-based comparison, we wanted to speak to freelancers face-to-face and make the effort to spend time in the areas we had selected.


Critically, in line with our core belief in paying creative and cultural sector workers for their labour (including the labour involved in contributing to research and studies), we also committed to appropriately renumerating our participants for their time in taking part. We are aware of the potential implications of remunerating individuals on low-incomes as part of one-off activities, including affecting means-tested benefits and other statutory support; we make an observation on this later in the report. Eventually, we settled on speaking to a small sample size of 10 individuals in each area, for a two-hour workshop including a semi-structured group interview. The questions and approach to facilitating the workshop sessions are set out here.

Note on terminology  


From time to time, we will distinguish between freelance, self-employed and atypical where relevant, but we will use ‘freelancer’ when referring to most non-traditional PAYE work activity, as well as to the workers we spoke to during our ‘Creative Workforce Workshops’ programme. 

It is worth noting that SIC and SOC weren’t mentioned during any of our ‘Creative Workforce Workshops’, which suggests these more administrative approaches to delineating between different sub-sectors and occupations (primarily for reporting and tax purposes) aren’t relevant to the workforce; creative and cultural sector workers tend not to describe their own working lives using these structures on a day-to-day basis.


A diverse approac


Research is clear that certain demographic groups, such as women, minoritised ethnic groups, disabled and younger workers were more likely to be impacted in terms of losses to both worked hours and jobs [8]. We therefore felt it was important that our workshops represented these groups as much as possible.


In selecting our final participants, we aimed to ensure a representative workshops were attended by people who were:

  • Freelance, self-employed and atypical workers in the creative and cultural sectors, or having recently left such work with a view to returning soon

  • Diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background and disabled categories

  • At different stages of their career (i.e. from grassroots artists, newly graduated, emerging, middle-career and established workers)


Data on participants 


We ran a public facing call for participants between September and October 2022, advertising on our own social media channels and, in-keeping with our emphasis on local, asked several workshop partners to disseminate the opportunity through their networks.


Reviewing the applications, we observed that we hadn’t been able to reach as many diverse demographic groups as we would have liked, particularly within the LGTBQIA+, minoritised ethnic, younger and disabled categories – those categories most under-supported by the pandemic and generally disproportionately vulnerable to sectoral volatility. Those that applied were predominantly cis female, white British and heterosexual. This was a significant point of learning for us and suggests that in future activities involving the creative and cultural workforces, we’ll need to consider concerted methods of reaching a much wider range of individuals. We know that our workshop partners in each locality found this observation helpful when considering their own future programmes and outreach activities too.


Based on the selection criteria we have already outlined, we sifted and weighted the final list of applicants to ensure a more diverse representation, taking into consideration gender, ethnicity and race whilst also targeting our priority subsectors in each location. This resulted in a better balance of gender, sexuality, ethnicity disabled participants and age range. Full data on the demographics of our final workshop participants is set out in the Annex.


From all the applications received, we selected our final 30 participants: 10 in each workshop location.

[1] Locating 54 ‘Priority places’ by balancing evidence of creative activity in the area with evidence of social need and where their own historic “investment and engagement is too low”:

[2] Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre's 'Creative Micro-clusters':

[3] DCMS Economic Estimates:

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] Data collected and analysed from:

[7] Centre for Cultural Value's 'Culture in Crisis' report:

[8] Ibid

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