Ask our Business Advisors

At Creative United we work with a unique network of exceptionally qualified business advisors whose expertise span the full breadth of and depth of the arts and creative industries. This incredible network has helped us provide a combined total of over 600 hours of 1:1 support, workshops and webinars for cultural heritage organisations in the North of England since 2019 as part of our Prosper North programme. As we start a new year (albeit one seemingly similar to the last), a number of new challenges and opportunities may arise, we asked our Prosper North business advisors for their particular insight into what lies ahead for the cultural heritage sector.

What are the key challenges facing the heritage sector in the North of England in 2021?


Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson:
The key challenges will be the transition period from closure to a level of activity that is sustainable and viable. The unknowns around opening dates, social distancing regulations (if any) and the confidence that visitors will return makes future planning and financial budgeting very precarious. There may well in some sectors be ongoing concerns about indoor gathering even after a rollout of vaccination and that particularly the older generate, who often initiate visits and book events, will be the main sociodemographic affected by this lack of confidence.

Matthew Brown: Remaining relevant in a rapidly changing world – the previous models of delivery and operating are not necessarily viable going forward now.

Sarah Perks: The sector has the overarching challenge of financial resilience and looking after its workforce, as does everyone through the pandemic. The pandemic has also intensified societal inequalities and the heritage sector will need to act deeply to effect change in this area in 2021. The environment and climate change are also an urgent challenge for everyone that cannot wait for economic recovery, and indeed is not mutually exclusive either.

What are the key opportunities for the heritage sector in the North of England in 2021? 


Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson:
Many organisations have looked to growth in two areas – digital and outdoor – and this may be where much of a positive future lies for the foreseeable future. Flexibility and adaptability will be key in survival and many have already seen new opportunities in online creating greater accessibility and awareness. There is now the opportunity to reach out to a global audience and using innovative and high quality digital engagements could lead to a continuing relationship wider than those able to physically come to an event or venue, but also encourage visits once travel bans are lifted. Outdoor activity has become a positive action during the pandemic and inventive and engaging animation of spaces perhaps not previously seen as attracting visitors could open up new and exciting ways for heritage organisations to engage with their communities and public.

Matthew Brown: The chance to do things differently, engage with new audiences in new ways, and to take advantage of the new funding streams that are out there.

Sarah Perks: The pandemic has brought a huge, renewed interest in all of our heritage spaces and the value of local heritage – whether cultural, industrial, nature or other – and new forms of community appreciation have developed across the North. This is a major opportunity for the heritage sector to engage wider, and different types of stakeholders and reinvent their models of support. Increasingly people are realising the value in restoration and repurposing and the importance of a circular economy.

You can find out more about the Prosper North programme here and Creative United’s unique network of business advisors here.

Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson is a Director of Cultivate, the cultural organisational development agency and a freelance consultant.

Matthew Brown  is a qualified accountant and an experienced CEO and Finance Director who has worked with a wide range of charities, social enterprises, and creative and digital industries.

Sarah Perks is a curator and consultant and Professor of MIMA School of Art & Design, Teesside University.