This week, we'll be in Bournemouth for our latest Creative Cities event, discussing the region's thriving creative scene with local SMEs and entrepreneurs.
To get a better idea of what it's like for small businesses working in the area, we talked to Mike Hawkyard, Founder and MD of local games studio Amuzo Games. Having received funding through our GamesLab South West scheme, Amuzo were able to take a break from creating hugely popular free app games for LEGO and concentrate on bringing their first IP, 'Cows Vs Sheep', to life.
Here, company mastermind Mike tells us why he chose to set up shop in Bournemouth, offers a flavor of the creative talent in the area and shares his thoughts on why Bournemouth is a one-to-watch when it comes to digital creativity...
How long have you worked in the Bournemouth area?
Ever since we started out as 4T2, around 17 years ago, we have been based in various spots across Bournemouth. In January we moved into brand new office space right in the town centre so we’re set for another good few years!
Why did you choose to base your company in Bournemouth?
I came down to Bournemouth Uni to study, once I graduated I was offered my job at Unicorn Training and everything went from there. It was obvious Bournemouth had lots of prospects in terms of digital opportunities so it made complete sense to stay. We’re less than a 2 hour train journey from London so it’s still convenient for regular city meetings but we have the perks of living by the beach!
In your opinion, what makes Bournemouth a great place for creative companies?
Living in a seaside town definitely has a much bigger positive impact on the work we do than I expect people imagine. Bournemouth living allows for a much more laid-back and relaxed attitude towards work than I feel it would if we were based in London. The slower lifestyle means everyone has, and actively makes, time for each other, which is key to growth.
What is the creative scene like in Bournemouth?
The creative and digital scene in Bournemouth at the moment is absolutely thriving, as has been reported widely in the media recently. It’s fantastic that Bournemouth is getting the recognition for the digital innovation and creative talent it’s harbouring, what I can’t believe is that we are still the only game studio in Bournemouth! With all the talented graduates coming out of the Uni’s Media School I wouldn’t be surprised if the case changes soon, and I hope it does!
Is it easy for emerging creatives to find affordable office space?
Not particularly, no. A lot of the buildings are taken up by facilities that cater to Bournemouth’s tourism. I would love to see more affordable office space appearing for creatives, especially in the town centre, to encourage more companies to move here and university graduates to stay.
Are there many networking events/Meet up spots in the area?
Across agencies in Bournemouth, there’s a real evident shared mentality that the social side of business is just as important to the growth of the industry as the commercial side. Regular digital-specific events, like Silicon Beach’s Meetdraw for example, offer an informal opportunity to network, share experiences and knowledge and find out what wonderful things are happening on our doorsteps. People take a genuine interest in what it is their digital neighbours are up to which really helps to harness that sense of local.
How has working in Bournemouth specifically influenced the work Amuzo create?
‘Fun first’ has been Amuzo’s ethos from day one and I believe we can attribute our success to this attitude. We’re very fortunate to live in a town that is primarily a holiday destination, where fun is a huge focus; we’re surrounded by inspiration on a daily basis which allows us to fully embrace the ‘fun first’ mentality when designing games.
Is there an accessible pool of talented people in the area?
There is so much talent currently being nurtured and developed at Bournemouth University. It’s our job to convince this up-and-coming talent to stay here. For a lot of graduates, there is the mind-set that moving to London will offer them the best opportunities and experiences, but better marketing of Bournemouth’s strong digital presence is key to showing them that’s not necessarily the case. We work closely with the University, attending Game Jams and offering student residencies at Amuzo HQ (thanks to Creative England!) to try and bridge that gap.
How easy is it to access funding and support in Bournemouth?
Bournemouth is a brilliant place to be in terms of funding prospects. Being classified under Creative England’s South West region has offered us plenty of opportunities to access funding, giving us the chance to work on projects we couldn’t have otherwise attempted, like our own IP for example. That’s been an ambition from the very early days of Amuzo and thanks to government funding it’s actually become a reality.
And finally, why do you love working in Bournemouth?
What is there not to love about working in Bournemouth? The digital, creative community is bigger than ever and continually growing, we have the perks of living right next to miles and miles of golden sand but at the same time, have the option to jump on a train to London and be there in under two hours. We have the best of both worlds and I can only see it getting better. Plus, we’re now home to Premier League AFC Bournemouth!
Find out how Creative England's Creative Cities Growth Programme can help support regional businesses. Alternatively, head here to find out if your small business is eligible to apply for one of our Business Loans.
- I Love Working In
- Creative Industries
- Creative England
- Business Advice
- Business Support