Creative Sector Growth Programme

Following on from the inaugural Creative Scale Up pilot programme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport we are pleased to launch our Creative Sector Growth Programme.

The Creative Sector Growth Programme will support a maximum of 120 creative businesses and freelancers across 2 cohorts to reformulate their operating and financial models, explore new business opportunities and review business plans in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The programme is aimed at businesses and freelancers across all sectors of the creative industries and all ownership types, with a focus on improving business resilience and supporting recovery.

The first round of applications is now closed. A second round of applications for our January cohort will be open in Autumn. Please complete the Expression of Interest form to apply. 

Sector specific support

The programme will offer creative SMEs and freelancers in the West of England access to sector specific support including:

  • £3,000 of professional sector specific expertise (mentoring, coaching and/or consultancy),
  • a dedicated Peer Support Programme including a minimum of six facilitated peer group sessions and
  • access to workshops and training delivered by Watershed.

The facilitated peer sessions will bring cohorts/groups of 10 businesses together, regularly, to address shared challenges of recovery and building resilience whilst learning collectively from each other.

 The programme runs until March 2022 and each business and freelancer on the programme will be part of a cohort receiving a minimum of six months intensive business support.

Watch our video to find out how Creative Scale Up has benefitted local businesses.

Delivery Partners

The Creative Sector Growth programme will be delivered by Watershed in collaboration with Upstarter and Mark Leaver Consulting, building on the successful Creative Scale Up model. It is structured to establish the foundations of business management – for example, internal culture, financial management, talent attraction and development, business development – but within that framework will also concentrate on the key decision moments for growth.

This past year has challenged so many creative businesses, and we have seen them develop new forms of agility. Given the focus on resilience and urgency, the team will deliver an intensive programme that provides companies with both existing and new tools for growth. This model allows immediate practical and strategic application of tailored knowledge and techniques into creative business development.

 For creative business founders exploring how to identify, anticipate, and manage transition points are a major part of the value a programme can bring. These transitions might be scaling to deliver new client activity, new products or services; or restructuring to generate coherence and efficiency as a basis for expansion. What we know from Creative Scale Up is that peer relationships deliver so much value when companies can “see themselves” in the position of others.

 The Watershed programme will be led by Gill Wildman and Mark Leaver, with support from Briony Phillips and Melissa Blackburn, and will include guest experts. Watershed is a Cultural cinema, and a centre for talent development and creative technology in Bristol.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible to apply for this programme if:

  • You demonstrate ambition to grow and build resilience over the next 3 years.
  • You are a Creative Sector Business with fewer than 250 employees or a Freelancer with a Unique Tax Reference.


  • Creative Sector businesses & Freelancers are defined as those working in the following sub-sectors:
    • Advertising & Marketing
    • Architecture
    • Arts & Culture
    • Craft
    • Createch (tech that is immersive or enables creativity, for example music software)
    • Design
    • Fashion
    • Gaming
    • Music
    • Publishing
    • TV and Film
  • You agree to participate in the activities and workshops of the programme.


  • Your company registered address, or your home address (if a sole trader) is in one of the following local authority areas:
  • Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • North Somerset Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council

Not sure which authority area you're in? Use this handy postcode tool to help you - https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council

Additional mentoring grant for businesses looking to scale

We are offering the opportunity to apply for an additional £3,000 of mentoring grant for around 20 businesses looking to scale up who meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum of 8 employees, up to 4 of whom can be regular freelance staff
  • Have scaled by 10% in the last year (turnover or employees)
  • Have the ambition to grow by at least 20% over the next 3 years
  • Be a Creative Industries business
  • Have not received more than £344,600 in government funded business support in the last 3 years
  • Be based in the West of England (Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire)
  • Agree to participate in the activities and workshops of the programme
  • Are seeking investment, or want to explore the possibility of investment
  • Please note charities are not eligible for this additional support

If you meet the above criteria and are interested in applying for the additional £3,000, please complete section 5 of the application form.

How do I apply?

To apply for our next cohort starting in early 2022 please complete the Expression of Interest form.

We anticipate that interest in the programme will be high and that we will not be able to offer a place on the programme to everyone interested.

We will assess the applications we receive to select those most suitable for the programme based on your existing plans for growth, future resilience and development and how you see the programme helping and supporting you to put these into practice.

Expression of Interest form


The Creative Sector Growth Programme is funded by the West of England Recovery Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.