The flourishing creative scenes of small towns


Coastal towns: live, work and play, by Mandy Barker

Scarborough’s Creative Scene

New businesses always seem to market their products and services to the main cities. Maybe it’s time to start looking towards the smaller regions when launching. Thought all your hometown had to offer was a Wetherspoons? Think again.

“While customer bases in the regions might be smaller, they are usually less crowded and easier to penetrate – forget the obsession with seeing your brand on Piccadilly Circus, your business might be better traction from being on your local bus stop.” Virgin Business

1) Digital Tech Investment reched £6.8bn in the UK, 50% higher than any other European country. £4.5bn of this was in regional areas outside of London.

After my last blog about plunging into the self employment world, it is clear the industry is growing. I wanted to share a little bit more about where I started. I started Sail in my home town, Scarborough.

People in cities are nervous about moving out of cities, fearing that life will be slow and less creative in a town. However, coming away from the noise, overcrowded design scenes and trends, allows your ideas to have room to breathe. You have the opportunity be more original, more creative, and have more time to reflect on your business goals. Time to think. Because in more regional areas, it’s an excellent work life balance. A more bohemian lifestyle. People are realising this, so areas are being developed.

Look at Margate, Hastings and Brighton, their creative scenes are thriving. People are becoming aware of what regional areas can offer: community, opportunities to influence change, collaboration, connections, work life balance, independence, cheaper living. A more bohemian lifestyle.

Scarborough has always had a bit of a rep for being behind or complacent. With it’s amusements, neon signs, seaside typography and brightly coloured big wheel Scarborough can provoke nostalgia, representing a time warp into the holidays of yesteryear. And it’s not the most culturally diverse town. However, the reality of living and working their is very different. Scarborough’s Creative scene is thriving into a creative hub by the sea. There is something very therapeutic about having the sea right on your doorstep. Scarborough’s creative scene is proudly growing, with a bunch of passionate creatives championing the town. Today, it is actually a vibrant, year round, well connected place. 

It is a beautiful part of the world bursting with creative and passionate people. The Yorkshire Coast has been listed as one of the top visitor destinations in the UK. And who doesn’t love to represent an underdog? Scarborough’s creative scene is somewhere you can have a real impact and be noticed. It may be championing diversity and social change, setting up new events, planning some creative workshops. You can use the opportunity to connect with local influencers who organically engage the community. This is a good way to inspire change, celebrate homegrown achievements and get involved in the local community.

I am passionate about getting out to meet people (you can’t build connections behind a screen). Say hello. I have been taken aback with the amount of creative and inspiring people I have met here – photographers, marketers, artists, designers, illustrators developers. And they have been keen to collaborate, which is brilliant, this is one of the reasons I set up Sail (collaboration produces strong and meaningful results, and let’s people have autonomy, which can increase wellbeing and creativity).

All the self employed people I have met that have the same goals:

  • Self sufficiency
  • Work life balance
  • Advocating a sharing economy and collaboration
  • Respecting others in the self employment world
  • Passion for change and what they do

There is some top quality talent on our doorstep. And with the launch of the University of Coventry, it is only going to grow. A thriving young generation will bring new ideas, and a lively art scene. Cultural events continue to appear including the brilliant Coastival and Sci-Fi Festival, And further developments and plans are underway. This includes the Open Air Theatre, Market Hall and Alparmare.

 Scarborough Coastival

Coastival, by Tony Bartholomew

However, it is important the creative and business scenes are advocated and supported by local schools, communities, businesses and authorities. This will inspire the younger generation to stay, encouraging them to develop Scarborough even further.

Funding and investment is available through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it’s important local organisations are taking advantage of this. It is important it is affordable for all. Artists, young people and new businesses should not be priced out. It’s about investing in the cultural space and studios for people, and supporting start ups/new ideas. This will create employment, champion the creative industry, the North, and coastal towns. This will push forward regeneration through investment and pride.


Let’s not forget the hidden creative gems, such as the Crescent Art Gallery, Woodend, West Pier Studios, Rural studios such as Brackenpress in Wykeham, Scarborough Brewery, the Old Parcels Office and more.

 Old Parcels Office Scarborough

Old Parcels Office Artspace

Freelancers, there are also some beautiful cafes where you can get away from your desk or home. Check out Yay Coffee!, Eat Me, Greensmith Thackwray, just to name a few. The independent scene is rising here!

Everyone is friendly and open minded. The more you talk to people, the more you will find out what is going on. It also seems to only be the very beginning in terms of the creative scene. Pride and community will accelerate local culture, and encourage diversity.

I hope Scarborough’s creative scene continues to grow and becomes a space of inspiration and collaboration, in this unique environment. It is just the beginning for Scarborough. And freelancers can live and work from anywhere, so next time you are thinking of a move, try it! You will be pleasantly surprised.

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