It’s now three weeks since I joined the team at Creative Youth Network – a vibrant, impactful charity that enables young people to reach their potential, whatever their background or circumstances.

One of the projects that really caught my imagination, and made me excited about the prospect of coming to work here, was the proposed redevelopment of the old Bristol Magistrates Courts (The Courts) to create a unique creative enterprise hub. There is already a very strong diversity and inclusion rationale for the project, but how does the economic case stack up?

Statistics from the UK creative industriesThe success of the creative industries

Well, the creative sector in the UK is a huge success story, growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, with employment increasing at four times the rate of the rest of the workforce. In Bristol, the creative industries employ more than 16,000 people, their output worth over 12% of the local economy. But, as TechNation’s 2018 creative industry survey shows, there is a scarcity of high-quality workspace for the creative sector. Many businesses are struggling to find the ready-made, high-tech space they need to prosper, and new start-ups are finding move-on space hard to come by.

Our transformation of The Courts into a vibrant four-storey creative enterprise hub will deliver new revenue, jobs and work-space, while also transforming an iconic, city-centre landmark into a gem in what is the under-developed opportunity that is Nelson Street.

You might wonder why a charity is leading this transformation?

The truth is that we are ideally placed to leverage inward investment to overcome the conservation deficit that makes redevelopment of listed buildings a challenge for the private sector; indeed, previous private sector owners of The Courts tried and failed to find a viable way to bring the building back into productive use.

As Sir Peter Luff, Chair of National Lottery Heritage Fund argues, “it’s not enough to save something, you’ve got to make it live”, and with our involvement The Courts project will bring to life opportunities that promise big gains for Bristol and the whole of the West of England, including:

  • 28,000ft2 of new office/work space for the creative and tech industries
  • new opportunities for 500 talented but disadvantaged young people each year to get work in these industries through apprenticeships, training and networking
  • £4.85m of Gross Value Added (GVA) into the region annually
  • £5.5m of inward investment from a range of funding sources

Delivering social value

Importantly for us, given current funding challenges for services for young people, The Courts, along with our other buildings the Kingswood Estate and the Station, will generate a small but crucial annual surplus for us as a charity. This income stream is critical to sustaining Creative Youth Network’s ongoing work supporting the most marginalised and disadvantaged young people in communities across the region – we have always used surpluses from our buildings to cross-subsidise youth clubs, support networks and new opportunities for young people, an area that remains as critical as ever in the face of ongoing public sector funding pressure.

We can see further economic synergies in the West of England Local Economic Partnership’s Creative and Digital strategy, where diversity is identified as a “source of creative energy that has the potential to deliver sustained business results and growth”.

Idris Elba once said that, whilst talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Our ability to identify and nurture talent in young people from diverse, often marginalised, backgrounds, ensures that the region can benefit from an amazing source of potential creative energy.

With 90 languages spoken, an increasingly diverse young workforce will ensure the region is well placed to create relevant content for global audiences, further stimulating increased economic and employment growth. Or to think about it from the flip-side: if Bristol’s creative workforce remains relatively mono-cultural and un-reflective of the diversity of our communities, then how will it remain successful and relevant in its output over the years to come?

The Courts will become an asset that meets community and economic needs, while benefiting young people in the region and our increasingly successful creative sectors. This seems a huge win-win to me, but if you’ve got thoughts on how we can make it more so, I’d love to hear them.