Freelancers, academics, local government and industry bodies across the creative industry in Wales are gathering in Merthyr this month to explore the benefits of working together and forming co-operatives or co-working spaces for shared services.
Hosted by CULT Cymru and the Wales Co-operative Centre during Co-operatives Fortnight and Adult Learning Week, the event on Wednesday 21 June will see industry practitioners and freelancers share their experiences of working together through a co-operative business model.
Guest speakers include Alex Bird of Cardiff University and Pat Conaty a Fellow of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and a research associate of Co-operatives UK, co-authors of the Not Alone Report.
The Not Alone report, published in 2016 by Co-operatives UK, the Wales Co-operative Centre and Unity Trust Bank, revealed that the number of self-employed workers across the UK is growing significantly. It currently stands at approximately 4.6 million people –15% of the workforce. In Wales, the creative industries is one of the fastest growing sectors, with a significant number of these jobs being through self-employment.
Another speaker, David Barnard from the Musicians Union and founder of Swindon Music Co-operative, has developed a toolkit for music teachers looking to set up a co-operative, and will be sharing his experiences.
Also present will be Hwyl Hub, a co-working space and community hub based in Merthyr Tydfil, and Oren Actors’ Management Co-op, the longest running actors’ agency in Wales established by Equity members. Representing professionally trained actors for television, film, radio and theatre, it enables actors between roles to act as agents for other co-op members.
“Co-ops are a good flexible way of addressing issues that freelancers face; they can be used for supporting functions such as marketing and finance, and provide opportunities and environments for like-minded individuals to come together and develop creative processes and products,” said Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre.
“This event, hosted right in the heart of the south Wales valleys, where we face some of our most pressing social and economic issues, will enable participants to discuss and explore collaborative working as a positive way forward for existing practitioners and new entrants in the creative industry in Wales.”
Event co-host CULT Cymru is a project supported through the Welsh Government’s Wales Union Learning Fund, managed by the trade union BECTU in partnership with Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers’ Guild.
CULT Cymru project manager, Siân Gale, said: “We have been approached on several occasions by union members wanting to find practical and innovative ways of co-working.
“We already provide business skills training for creative freelancers, small businesses and new entrants through our ‘Live Local Think Global in the Digital World’ initiative therefore [this event] fits very well with our ethos and practice of encouraging sustainable work within our diverse communities throughout Wales.”