Last year, Startups Geek produced its first ever ranking of the top 40 UK locations to start a business, and the response we received from communities around the UK was remarkable: academics and politicians around the country rallied in support of their home towns and cities and were quick to heap praise on the business strengths of the places where the lived and worked.
Next on Startups Geek’s agenda to support startup culture, digital creativity and entrepreneurialism, we decided that we would analyse the most creative places in the UK. This time, our team has delved into more data, and we’ve put together our first detailed ranking of the 118 most creative towns and cities across the UK.
Some of the results were surprising. For example, did you know…
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- Despite having a staggering 22 universities offering creative courses, London didn’t make it into our top 10?
- The North of England performed strongest for number of theatres per 10,000 residents, with Blackpool and Barnsley both in the top five of the 118 locations?
- West Bromwich was far and away the best place to look for a creative job, with more than twice as many creative job vacancies per resident than its nearest competitor?
How did your home town fare in our analysis? Read on to find out.
Table of contents
To work out the top creative cities we looked at the number of creative jobs, the number of art galleries, theatres and the number of universities and how those universities rank for creative subjects. Each city was ranked in each of the four areas. Those scores were combined to calculate their overall ranking, the fewer points a place received the higher its ranking.
- Brighton and Hove
- Newcastle upon Tyne
- St Albans
- Milton Keynes
- High Wycombe
- Sutton Coldfield
- West Bromwich
- South Shields
- Burton upon Trent
- Hemel Hempstead
- St Helens
- Kingston upon Hull
Summary of results data
1. Brighton and Hove
Two universities and 11 theatres help contribute to Brighton being number one on the list. It is the city with the second most art galleries for it population with 1.63 per 10,000. It is also in the top quarter of cities for creative jobs.
Councillor Martin Osborne, Joint Chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee said:
“We’re delighted to see Brighton & Hove top this list. The city has an internationally recognised cultural offer and is a hotspot for creative talent and technological innovation. We’re home to hundreds of artists and creative producers and host over 60 festivals a year, including the largest annual arts festival in England… Our universities are leading the way in fields of advanced engineering and design and a diverse range of businesses thrive side by side. We have the highest proportion of creative SMEs in the country and most start-ups per capita outside of London. The city attracts innovation and creativity and the diverse range of people that live and work here are our best creative assets.”
With 2.18 art galleries and 0.66 theatres per 10,000 people Bath is the first in the country for both of these categories. It also rank 11th with 7.4 creative jobs per 10,000 people.
York St John and the University of York are two of the best places in the country to get a creative degree. It also has the 3rd most art galleries per 10,000 and is in the top 20% of places for creative jobs.
Councillor Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see York again recognised as one of the UK’s most creative towns and cities. York is a city where outstanding, renowned heritage meets a cutting-edge and contemporary approach to creativity which acts as a powerful catalyst to attract, encourage and help grow York’s cultural and creative sectors. Hence, we are home to many vibrant, leading media arts organisations, events and initiatives. York is also one of only 12 UNESCO Creative Cities in the UK and we are unique in being the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts. In 2020, York launched a new Culture Strategy – York’s Creative Future – which has inclusion and participation at its heart; showcasing the city’s commitment to ensuring culture is relevant and accessible to everybody. Thus, we seek to embed creativity in every aspect of our city – in the economy, in wellbeing and in placemaking.”
Reyahn King, Chief Executive of York Museums Trust, said: “York’s culture strategy is to be a city where outstanding, renowned heritage comes together with a cutting-edge contemporary approach to creativity. York’s UNESCO City of Media Arts status has helped to boost the local creative economy and increase engagement with culture, making York a great creative place to live and work. Great heritage offers like York Castle Museum attract visitors and institutions like York Art Gallery create jobs and support creatives in the region. It’s great to see York’s creativity recognised in this study.”
Oxford has over 100 creative jobs per 10,000, putting it inside the top 20 of places to work. The number of art galleries and theatres are both inside the top 20 per 10,000. Obviously there are two great places to study here as well.
Leah Thompson, Director of Enterprising Oxford, said:
“We’re not surprised that Oxford ranks highly for creative output, given the strength and diversity of our ecosystem. Through Enterprising Oxford, I meet amazing entrepreneurs who are pushing the boundaries with their innovative ideas and ventures, across all sectors including the creative industries. Oxford continues to grow and nurture its ecosystem with an emphasis on culture and collaboration, through our universities, our LEP, and the amazing enterprise and entrepreneurship support organisations across the county. This is so important for ideas to grow and take shape, and for creativity to flourish.”
Paul Hobson, Director of Modern Art Oxford, said:
“Oxford is without a doubt a leading national centre for creativity the UK: the city’s rich history of learning and culture continues to nurture creative experimentation and innovation across technology, business, education and culture. Oxford is one of the world’s great cities for thinking and learning, and home to some of the world’s most influential and brilliant educators and innovators, as well as a diverse international community who enrich its cultural ecology. Its wealth of cultural and heritage assets are nationally recognised as powerhouses of ambitious creativity, internationalism and inclusion, reflecting the people of this dynamic, beautiful city.”
Manchester is 3rd in the number of jobs per 10,000 and also 3rd in creative points per university. With 14 theatres and 24 art galleries it offers a lot of opportunity to be apart of the creative community.
Beth Hewitt, Creative Director – Media City Directorate at the University of Salford, said: “It is no surprise that Manchester is ranked as one of the most creative places in the UK. The city has a long legacy of pioneering radical thinking, media, music, and science and today it stands as a thriving cultural UK hub. The University of Salford is proud to be the only university based at Media City, just a few miles from Manchester City Centre. Our innovative Media City campus positions us at the heart of one of the largest creative and digital clusters in Europe, dedicated to nurturing the next generation of creative and technology focused talent in the UK.”
6. Newcastle upon Tyne
It comes in the top 20 for all but one of our metrics. It has 0.62 art galleries per 10,000 and two universities it means that it is a city with a lot to offer for a creative.
Chester has 7.3 creative jobs per 10,000 and is in the top 10 for both art galleries and theatres per 10,000. With a good university Chester is an inviting place to be if you wish to follow a career in a creative industry.
It has 20 theatres,1.12 art galleries per 10,000 people and over 150 creative jobs. Along with 4 universities this makes Edinburgh an attractive place to be for someone wanting to be surrounded by creative opportunities.
John Dean, Head of Division: Media, Communication & Performing Arts at Queen Margaret University, said: “Edinburgh is arguably one of the most inspirational and creative cities in the Europe. It’s the world’s leading festival city, with a range of major annual festivals bringing talent from more than a third of the world’s countries to its streets and stages. Edinburgh’s International Festival has been the catalyst in bringing powerful and significant work to delight and challenge the capital’s residents and visitors.
“Dating back to 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival was established after World War II to create ‘a flowering of the human spirit’ in the Scottish capital. This main festival has inspired many of Edinburgh’s other festivals to establish their own presences – all helping to earn the Scottish capital its nickname, ‘the Festival City’. This is one of the reasons that so many creative people are drawn to visit, live or work in the city.
“The city also boasts a wealth of creative performance and arts spaces, spanning a range from start-up studios to world class theatre and dance venues such as the Traverse and Festival Theatres. The city is a melting pot of culture and creativity with hundreds of museums, art galleries, monuments, historic architecture, modern public buildings, performance spaces and creative businesses. Alongside that, it has huge strengths in the digital sectors. As a world-class seat of learning, it also supports a vibrant culture of education in the creative industries with people coming from across the globe to study at Edinburgh’s universities, including Queen Margaret University.”
5th in the number of creative jobs per 10,000 means it is an attractive place to work. It is also 7th with 0.57 galleries per 10,000 and with a number of art galleries and a university it makes it into our top 10 places.
With over 150 creative jobs and two very good universities there is a lot on offer for someone to live and work in Cambridge. It also has a number of art galleries and theatres to choose from.
With 22 universities offering creative courses there is a course for almost anyone. It is also 9th in the number of creative jobs per 10,000. Theatres and art galleries abound with over 200 of each.
Lincoln comes in 12th for both theatres and art galleries per 10,000 with 0.47 for the former and 0.65 for the latter. It also has two universities offering creative courses. It means there are lots of options for living and working here.
Ranked in the top 15 places to get a creative degree and 10th for the number of theatres per 10,000 makes Cheltenham an attractive place to live and study. It is also in the top 20% of places for creative jobs.
With numerous art galleries and theatres Glasgow is a great place to be if you are interested in the arts. It also has over 150 creative jobs and 2 universities offering creative courses.
With two universities and in the top 20% for creative jobs Nottingham offers a great chance to pursue a career in a creative industry. It also has 0.25 theatres per 10,000 and 0.28 art galleries per 10,000.
With well established theatres and galleries Bristol has a lot going for it in terms of art and creativity. It also has over 250 creative jobs and its university score is inside the the top 25%.
17. St Albans
St Albans has 8.7 creative jobs per 10,000 putting it 8th on our list. It also is ranked inside the top 25 for art galleries and theatres per 10,000, all this despite not having a university offering creative courses.
Coming in 2nd on the list for theatres per 10,000 people, Stockport is a vibrant town full of opportunities. It has 8.7 creative jobs per 10,000 and is in the top 50 for art galleries per 10,000.
Norwich has 10 art galleries putting it in 18th in the list for galleries per 10,000 people. It is also has two very good universities although there are a limited number of creative jobs.
It has nearly 30 art galleries and theatres and ranks 9th in art galleries per 10,000 with 0.71. It also has three good universities offering a wide range of creative courses helping Plymouth round out our top 20.
Scores taken from the Complete University Guide for creative courses and then added together.
The number of jobs advertised on indeed.com for that city, then calculated how many jobs per 10000 people.
Theatres and art galleries
Taken from the number of theatres and art galleries on Tripadvisor, then calculated how many theatres and art galleries per 10000 people.
Taken from the Office of National Statistics