Lee & Thompson x Creative Access

Creative Access accelerates career progression for creative industry freelancers with Lee & Thompson

Posted on December 7, 2023

Creative Access, the leading diversity and inclusion social enterprise, is excited to announce that 13 mid-level freelancers from across the creative industries have been awarded a funded place in its new ‘Thrive’ programme. The programme – generously funded by leading law firm for the creative industries, Lee & Thompson – aims to provide the professional development and career support that 50% of freelancers from under-represented groups say they need to progress and currently cannot access.

The scheme targets those from backgrounds under-represented in the creative industries – this includes, but is not limited to Black, Asian and ethnically diverse candidates, disabled people, those undergoing gender reassignment or transitioning and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds – at mid-career level. Submissions had to outline career trajectory to date and outline what they were looking to get out of the support programme. 

Tailored career acceleration

Creative Access’s 2023 Freelance Report shows 78% of under-represented freelancers see professional training and networking as vital to career development yet often, unlike permanent employees, they do not receive this support from employers. The inaugural 12-month cohort of 13 freelancers will receive tailored guidance to boost their skills and network, addressing unique challenges faced in their careers.

The Thrive programme, designed to empower under-represented professionals, encompasses a comprehensive range of resources and opportunities. Participants will benefit from a dedicated mentor, networking opportunities and training sessions covering leadership development, self-belief, effective self-management, building a successful career, financial literacy and legal fundamentals, provided by Lee & Thompson’s team.

Ongoing commitment to diverse talent

Crucially, Lee & Thompson’s three-year funding commitment will support a further 10 professionals per year, focusing on mid to senior career level individuals from under-represented groups seeking to expand their network and skillset. Future funding until 2026 will target the development of a career advancement programme for senior professionals from historically under-represented backgrounds in the creative industries.

Barriers faced

The programme comes at a time when the most debilitating barriers facing under-represented freelancers and their careers are ones difficult to tackle without support:

  • 1 in 5 (22%) became a freelancer due to negative experiences in a perm role
  • Disabled individuals are 30% more likely to freelance after a negative permanent role experience
  • 54% report being offered a day rate or salary below their level

Successful applications had this to say:

Olivia Swash, TV freelancer, Development & Production AP: “As with many freelancers in TV at the moment, I’ve been struggling to secure roles despite my strengths and experience. Through the Thrive programme guidance from a mentor, support from a network of like-minded freelancers, and better knowledge about the practicalities of freelancing will arm me with an iron-clad potential to achieve my goals.”

Hamza Ali, freelance movement artist & theatre director “I’m incredibly excited to be part of this programme and collaboration between two brilliant organisations that support the creative industries. I’m ready to absorb everything they offer to enrich and accelerate my career growth as a movement director.”

Bibi Hilton, CEO Creative Access stated, “We are delighted to partner with Lee & Thompson to launch the Thrive programme and provide critical professional development and career support to individuals at mid-career level from groups under-represented in the creative industries. Through this programme, we aim to empower those participating to achieve their full potential and overcome barriers they face in their career progression. We are grateful for Lee & Thompson’s support and commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the sector.”

Reno Antoniades, managing partner, Lee & Thompson: “We are really proud to collaborate with Creative Access and to support professionals from under-represented backgrounds.  For forty years, Lee & Thompson has worked with clients at the forefront of the creative industries and we understand the intrinsic link between diversity and creativity.  That is why we are backing this collaboration, not only financially, but also with our time, expertise, networks and advice. 

Schemes such as Thrive are crucial for the growth and success of the creative industries, and it is essential that we minimise barriers facing under-represented talent in particular to provide opportunities for individuals to continue to flourish.”

For more information about the Thrive programme and Creative Access, see here.