Gemma Jones talks to Wil Stephens, founder of Cardiff Bay-based interactive entertainment Company cube on the capital’s thriving Creative industries sector.
The fast-expanding creative industries sector is the jewel in the crown of the economy of the Cardiff city-region. In Cardiff alone the industry employs 13,000 with three terrestrial broadcasters present in BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Cymru Wales and S4C, as well as a vibrant independent television production sector with UK leading players like Boom Pictures headquartered in the city.
BBC Cymru Wales’ impressive drama village production studios in Cardiff Bay, where network hits such as Doctor Who, Casualty and Holby City are filmed, is acting as a magnet for new creative industry investment into the city.
And following its drama village investment BBC Wales has been given to go ahead for a new headquarters, while ITV Cymru Wales will relocate to a new HQ at 3 Assembly Square in Cardiff Bay. Recently it was also confirmed that Pinewood Shepperton, in a joint venture with the Welsh Government, is to set up its first studios in Wales on the outskirts of Cardiff.
In a recent survey, industry trade body Pact (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) showed that over the last five years Wales has experienced the biggest increase in winning network commissions than any part of the UK outside of London. Pact’s national director for Wales is Wil Stephens, who is also chief executive of Bafta winning technology and media firm Cube Interactive.
Cube is one of an increasing number of creative industry firms which have expanded into the London marketplace by leveraging the expertise in their Cardiff headquarters.
Wil said: “Cardiff is a marvellous place to be based and we’re proud that our business is headquartered here. The depth and pedigree of talent in the creative industries in Cardiff is impressive and growing year on year. From SuperTed to Doctor Who, we’ve got world class animators, illustrators and programme makers on our doorstep. The quality of our staff certainly gives us a competitive edge when bidding for work in London.”
With three terrestrial broadcasters, and a vibrant independent television production sector too, he is optimistic for the future of the creative industries sector in the city. Wil said: “The growth here has been staggering, and it’s now a common sight to see a worldwide film or a network TV drama being shot on the capital’s streets.
“The creative industry sector is a huge driver for the city. I have no doubt that it will continue to be a key factor in the success and vibrancy of Cardiff for generations to come.”
And he said Cardiff Metropolitan, Cardiff and South Wales universities, were playing a vital role in providing a ready supply of young talented graduates needed to support the growth of the sector in the capital.
He added: “Their relentless drive to understand and engage with the industry is impressive. They truly understand what is required to generate world class students with solid job prospects and career paths carved out years before a graduation ceremony is planned. Most students never want to leave Cardiff after a wonderful university experience, and this enables us to recruit and retain key talent without much competition.”
Wil lives right in the centre of the city so is well placed to gauge its social scene. Smiling he said: “I step out of my flat and into a fabulous tapas bar, walk around the corner to an Italian restaurant, Casanova, run by two brothers from Naples who import their own olive oil and then head further afield to the city’s many bars and cafes.
“Cardiff is a foodie’s heaven, not to mention a shopping paradise. It’s like having Mayfair’s designer boutiques, Soho’s latest pop-up restaurants and Fitzrovia’s bohemian cafes all rolled into one… it’s fabulous melting pot of fun.”
As for his favourite place in Cardiff he said: “You can’t beat a walk through Pontcanna Fields. This is a vast area of parkland running alongside the River Taff in the heart of the city. It connects to other open spaces to create a huge ‘green lung’ either side of the river. It’s Cardiff’s answer to Central Park.”
Wil believes the trend in creative industry firms moving into Cardiff will continue. However, he doesn’t describe it as relocating. Instead he said: “I see it very much as re-energising these firms and their staff to a different and better way of life. A healthier, happier company is a stronger company, and that’s what Cardiff will deliver for you in spades.”