Bristol’s collaborative creative scene ‘has come of age’

The city has the largest creative community outside of London, and is more profitable per head than anywhere in the UK. Now is the time to build on those strengths and celebrate what makes Bristol’s creative scene tick, say business leaders.

Bristol’s standing as a centre of creative excellence should be celebrated and developed on its own terms – and in particular the confident and collaborative culture that gives it an edge over other locations.

The call-to-arms was made at Social Media Week Bristol’s opening plenary, held at law firm TLT’s new top floor space, with eye-catching views across the city.

“Bristol is seen as a place for the young and vibrant to target, and they are coming in numbers and bringing their energy with them.” – Chris Deary, creative director at Zone Digital

Saintnicks chief executive Fraser Bradshaw said: “The thing that really raises Bristol up is its collabation culture. The city is full of small specialist companies of one to five people. For the scale-up agencies that thrive in the city now, what that means is they can reach out for expert help – and carry on scaling via collaboration.”

Sarah Pullen, regional MD for Trinity Mirror, emphasised the city’s confidence. “There is that willingness to learn from one another. There’s a certain culture in Bristol that really works.”

The question of whether London is still a draw for creatives looking for experience, and what that means for Bristol, drew a range of views.

Peter Brown, chief executive of Prophecy Unlimited, said there is no question that Bristol is these days seen as a centre of excellence in its own right.

“We have London offices and we are taken seriously here by London and by our clients. Last year we won work with a major brand that explicitly did not want to work with a London agency, which tells a story.”


Chris Deary, creative director at Zone Digital, which also has offices in the capital and Bristol, said it was noticeable that the young talent is not being drawn to London in the same way now as in the past, for cost-of-living reasons.

“Bristol is seen as a place for the young and vibrant to target, and they are coming in numbers and bringing their energy with them.”

Gemma McGrattan, director of Synergy Creative, made a similar point.

“We get more twentysomethings than ever applying. It’s not just those that are older and looking for a lifestyle change. It’s something that changes the culture in a positive way and is part of Bristol’s emerging story.”

And Bradshaw said the London reference was now an irrelevance in some respects.

“Yes, it’s the capital, but let’s not sweat that. We are more profitable per head than London and the country’s number-two media city. That’s a good calling card and comparable with lots of notable European and US cities, for example.

“We attract great talent and nurture some as well. The collaboration culture gives our people exposure to getting things done creatively, and they learn fast.”

One concern on the horizon for the city’s creatives and brands is the rising cost of living in the city.

Eleanor Tweddell, head of communications and customer engagement for Bristol Water, said Bristol was in some sense at a crossroads.

“It is expensive for young people, and the costs are getting worse. We have a young communications team at Bristol Water and like many others they struggle with the cost of living. So Bristol has taken off, but will it be a victim of its success? The Bristol brand stands for something, but what happens next is up for grabs.”

But Jarrod Lopiccolo, head of the recently landed US agency Noble Studios, said Bristol has a strong offer for the foreseeable future.

“We were attracted to set up in Bristol for its profile as a creative city with access to talent, a good size and population, plus improving prospects. In five years’ time, the dynamic might be different, because things change quickly, but it seems like a happy balance right now.”

Brining the morning’s discussions to a close, chair Christian Annesley, summarized: Our session got to the heart of Bristol’s creative challenge, at a time when the city’s status on the country’s leading regional media city is unarguable. All those around the table agreed that the success of the city rests on its world-class talent allied to a unique culture of collaboration. But there are challenges and gaps, too, in Bristol’s story. More effort needs to go into ensuring greater diversity and making more of young talent, especially drawing in via non-graduate routes into roles.

The city also faces the challenge of remaining affordable and accessible to younger creatives, in particular. For now, though, there was a feeling at the sessions that we should cherish what Bristol offers: a home for creative talent that’s among the best on the world stage, and that is delivering a pipeline of excellence from growing creative agencies and specialist outfits alike.”

Click here for a downloadable summary of the event.

Around the table

Eleanor Tweddell, Interim Head of Communications, Bristol Water

Sarah Pullen, Managing Director, Trinity Mirror

Chris Deary, Creative Director, Zone Digital

Peter Brown, CEO, Prophecy Unlimited

Andy Fussell, Owner, Fussels Fine Foods

Gemma McGrattan, Director, Synergy Creative

Tim Jones, Managing Director, True Digital

Nick Dean, Managing Director, ADLIB

Dan Read, Partner, TLT

Jarrod Lopiccolo, CEO, Noble Studios

Fraser Bradshaw, CEO, saintnicks


Christian Annesley, Owner, Annesley Media (chair)

Lis Anderson, Director, AMBITIOUS PR (event organiser)