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Mayor Richard Parker launches new 'hub' to boost creative and cultural co-operatives in West Midlands

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22nd May 2024
Last updated
12th June 2024
A photo featuring Jonny Graney, founder of Artefact Stirchley; Natalie White, portfolio manager of Power to Change; Mareen Aktar and Stephen Hawkes, from The Developer Society; Hayley Pepler, head of culture at the West Midlands Combined Authority; James de le Vingne, chief executive of the Employee Ownership Association; Rose Marley, chief executive of Co-operatives UK; Jo Ind, manager of the West Midlands Ownership Hub
Representatives from Artefact Stirchley, Power to Change, The Developer Society, West Midlands Combined Authority, Employee Ownership Association, Co-operatives UK, attending the launch of the West Midlands Ownership Hub.

Co-operatives UK has joined forces with the West Midlands Combined Authority and Employee Ownership Association to launch a ground-breaking new initiative focused on growing co-operative and employee-owned businesses in the creative economy. 

The new Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker, launched the West Midlands Co-operative Ownership Hub last night (21 May 2024) as part of a £15 million investment in the creative and cultural sectors.

The hub will offer workshops and ongoing support programmes for freelancers, creatives, and businesses to encourage transition to worker co-ops and other business models that are proven to enhance productivity, prioritise the well-being of workers, and address the challenges of precarious work conditions. Alongside Co-operatives UK, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is working with the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) and supported by Power to Change.

The WMCA’s multi-million pound investment into the region's arts, culture and heritage sectors will also provide grants that unlock wider match-funding to improve physical facilities and support to help them innovate.

Performance artists on stage at the West Midlands Ownership Hub Launch
Performance artists at the West Midlands Ownership Hub Launch. Photo credit: Edward Moss Photography.

The Mayor said: “I see the West Midlands as the beating heart of the national creative economy and as our region’s creatives increasingly stand tall on the global stage, they should be able to rely on the public sector to champion them.

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I am proud to have made a manifesto pledge to double the number of co-operatives in the West Midlands and the Ownership Hub is a crucial step towards fulfilling this promise.
– Richard Parker, Mayor of the West Midlands

“That’s why over the next two years we will invest more than £15 million to support the ambition and capacity of the sectors through programmes of work designed to ignite the regional creative eco-system and re-animate our local towns and places, and to provide greater opportunity for everyone to feel the benefits of engaging with culture and creativity.

“We have set up the West Midlands Ownership Hub to promote co-operative and employee ownership. These business models will pave the way for a more sustainable future for workers and help address the challenges of precarious work conditions in these sectors, recognising the vital role those people play in shaping our identity and driving our economy forward.

Rose Marley, chief executive of Co-operatives UK, said: "Ownership and control are the backbone for creativity, but they're increasingly rare commodities for people in the creative and cultural sectors. Whether through AI, music sharing, or exploitation by global tech, our creative and cultural communities are facing new challenges in industry 4.0.

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Co-operatives are a way for people to guarantee ownership and control of their creativity or cultural communities. We're thrilled to be part of the West Midlands Ownership Hub and excited to see the positive impact we can have, together, by creating more worker co-ops and employee-owned business. It's how we can empower people to free up their creativity and control their own future.
– Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK

Skinder Hundal, Chair of West Midlands Cultural Leadership Board, said: “Imagining and collaborating is what artists do best: when they bring their ideas, enthusiasm, expertise and unique view on the world, new projects, works and exhibitions come to life. 

“I’m excited to see how The West Midlands Ownership Hub will support our region’s creatives to work together to explore innovative ways in which they can take ownership of their creativity and materially benefit from it, working in solidarity as a West Midlands sector, consciously engaging contexts both locally and globally.

“This important project builds on our commitment to support the arts and the creative industries to flourish in the region, and I’m looking forward to see our artists and creatives develop with this support going forward.”

James de le Vingne, Chief Executive of the EOA, said: “We’re delighted to see West Midlands Combined Authority take this innovative step to grow and sustain employee and worked owned businesses in the region – businesses that will be rooted in the region for the longer term, driving growth and greater benefits for people, planet and place.

“After such a spectacular launch, we look forward to seeing how their focus on growing opportunities for individuals and sustainable business models in the arts and creative sector delivers impacts for the region, and the learning we can take from this to influence future national, regional and local activity to grow more employee ownership.”

A photograph of attendees at the West Midlands Ownership Hub Launch
Launch of the West Midlands Ownership Hub. Photo credit: Edward Moss Photography.

The Mayor also spoke at the annual conference of Equity UK, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, at the weekend when he pledged to influence better pay and conditions for creatives, many of whom exist on short term, insecure contracts. 

Want to find out more?

Learn all about the West Midlands Community Ownership Hub and other much-needed support the WMCA is providing to arts, culture and heritage across the region.
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