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Insight Paper: Pan-regional cultural decision making

Updated: Jul 11

In our fifth Insight Paper, we delve into pan-regional governance approaches to explore how they may work in tandem with the wider ‘devolution’ agenda. We unpack how they might provide a mechanism for targeted place-based investment and local partnership working.

We invited two of our programme partners and senior representatives from live pan-regional creative, cultural and heritage sector governance and delivery mechanisms to share their views as part of a special Knowledge Exchange panel.

Lorraine Cox, Director of Creative Estuary and Tom Stratton, Chief of Staff at Royal Society of Arts (RSA) shared insights from their own project experiences. We were also delighted to be joined by local authority officers and sector representatives from across the Creative Estuary area who gave us a rich account of what it's like to be part of pan-regional activity.

The projects we focussed on during the session were:


Creative Estuary

Creative Estuary is a development partnership of public sector and cultural organisations, working together to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across the County Councils of Kent and Essex, in the South East of England. The partnership also includes cultural organisations Estuary Festival CIC, Metal, and Cement Fields. Funding came in two phases, from the Cultural Development Fund in 2018 that helped build capacity, and via the Place Partnership Fund in 2023 for delivery work up until 2026.


One Creative North

One Creative North is a grand coalition working towards a Northern Creative Corridor which aims to unlock the huge potential in the North of England’s creative industries. This cross-regional partnership, led by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), Arts Council England (ACE), Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC) and leading regional sector organisations, it is hoped it will develop regional strategies that build skills, unlock finance, support innovation and nurture arts & culture across the North of England.


In the Insight Paper, we cover a few themes emerging from the session, including:


  • Being part of something bigger: Coordination of opportunities can help innovation and the cross pollination of ideas; economies of scale can be made possible across a range of functions; local authority officers can feel more connected and ultimately more invested; and expertise from across the region can be leveraged for a great goal.


  • Building capacity in the sector: Pan-regional approaches have creatived hundreds of new commissioning opportunities, platforms and forums for networking and knowledge exchange which have been created and expanded over time. There is also evidence to suggest that they have opened up creative, cultural and heritage sector infrastructures to a wider set of sector actors.


  • Exploring Cluster vs Ecosystem approaches: We were able to explore whether pan-regional activity to support our sectors might work best taking ‘strengths-led’ approaches scaffolded around creative clusters, or whether new ecosystem approaches could offer an alternative route.


Findings in this Insight Paper will feed into the growing body of evidence informing 'the future of local cultural decision making' policy development process.

Inline with our approach to open and transparent policymaking , we're publishing a series of Insight Papers to demonstrate where our policy work stems from. If you'd like to be kept up to date with how the programme is developing, please visit the programme hub.

Please share this paper with your colleagues and networks and get in touch with us at if you have any questions or comments. We'd be delighted to know your thoughts!


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