When you're ready to enter the working world, where do you go to find a creative job? Especially as London is no longer the only option (or not entirely viable) and there are decent jobs everywhere?
Allow Creative Boom to guide you with this essential rundown of the UK's most creative towns and cities to live, work and play. From Manchester and Liverpool to Bristol and Birmingham, these are some of the best creative hubs today, offering so much for aspiring artists and designers.
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and often joked as a place where it never stops raining (it does, we have sunny days too), Manchester is all beautiful red brick buildings, former cotton mills and canals. It's one of the most creative cities in the world with a rich cultural heritage to rival any major metropolis.
And when you walk through any of Manchester's streets, you get a real sense of local pride and passion from its inhabitants. With a population of half a million, its economy is considered to be the third-largest in the UK and - in a recent study, it was also ranked as the UK's second-best place to do business.
Considered by many to be UK's 'second city', Manchester is notable for its music (consider The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, The Smiths, Joy Division and the all-out house scene that accompanied the days of Factory Records and The Hacienda), arts (Lowry, Ford Madox Brown, Adolphe Valette - need I say more?), culture, media (the BBC now live here and it's always been home to Granada Television - who have recently joined the Beeb down at Salford Quays) and it has a thriving, growing tech scene with startups and digital agencies popping up all over the place.
Where can I possibly start with somewhere as wonderful as Liverpool? It's one of the UK's most vibrant, colourful and interesting creative cities, and the people are just wonderful. Their humour, their warmth and their talent, all makes Liverpool one of the best places to live, work and play. No wonder it's nicknamed The Pool of Life.
Home to The Beatles and labelled the World City of Pop by Guinness World Records, it's a city that's steeped in history and culture. Back in the early 19th century, Liverpool was a major global port and 40 per cent of the world's trade passed through its docks. As you can imagine, its architecture is rich in heritage and several areas of the city were granted World Heritage Site status back in 2004.
Today, Liverpool proudly has one of the largest economies in the UK. In recent years, there has been significant growth in the knowledge economy with the establishment of the Liverpool Knowledge Quarter in sectors such as media. And because of Liverpool's beautiful old buildings, it's become the second most filmed city in the UK outside London.
Building on its creative and enterprising past, the creative industries are really thriving in Liverpool. It's home to over 7,000 creative and digital firms, employing over 48,000 people and making up £1.4 billion GVA to the local economy. There's a big tech community here and Liverpool happens to be one of Europe's focal points for the games industry. When it comes to culture, you can't move for the wealth of talent.
Oh, how I love Bristol, or Brizzle, as the locals would say! It's one of those wonderful UK cities that has pretty much everything going for it. Great weather (one of the warmest cities in the UK), friendly people, world-class culture, stunning architecture and it's bursting with creativity. It is, in fact, the largest centre of culture, employment and education in South West England with a population of nearly half a million. And on speaking to Bristol creatives, it's absolutely clear that this city is one of the happiest places to live, work and play.
Built around the beautiful River Avon and with a short coastline on the Severn Estuary which flows into the Bristol Channel, the city's economy largely depends on creative media, electronics and aerospace industries. There's also a huge digital industry here – gaming, web, mobile – along with a wealth of creative freelancers, particularly designers and illustrators.
The makers of Wallace & Gromit - Aardman are based in Bristol. The city is also home to the UK's largest permanent street art project, known as See No Evil. And famous street artist Banksy has many artworks dotted around the city.
4. Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne – often shortened to 'Newcastle' – is a wonderful, buzzing and creative city in the North East of England. Part of Tyne & Wear, historically Northumberland, it's situated on the banks of the River Tyne and close to the North Sea.
It's a city that grew as an important trading centre for wool, playing a major role in the Industrial Revolution, and later became a major coal mining area. Its port, which developed in the 16th century, was once one of the world's largest shipbuilding centres.
Alas, these industries declined and, for the most part, have closed down. But today, Newcastle's economy is thriving with learning, digital technology, retail, tourism and culture all playing a part in its success. What's more, the creative industries are rapidly growing here and the city has plenty to offer the discerning freelance professional who's looking for somewhere to live, work and play.
Shaking off the shackles of its industrial reputation, Birmingham – or ‘Brum’ as it’s affectionately known – has reinvented itself in recent years and is now a vibrant city with a bustling creative culture bubbling under the surface.
It’s a vast, sprawling city with a city centre spliced into sections by canals, flyovers, tunnels and ‘60s architecture, which means finding your way around can often be a little on the tricky side. But this also means it is a place sparkling with hidden gems and once you find your feet there’s an exciting underbelly to discover.
One of the big hitters during the industrial revolution, it was once called the City of a Thousand Trades. Artisan jewellers are still thriving, as are various other industries, while the glistening new Bullring shopping centre and a plethora of fine dining restaurants have also turned the city centre into a mecca for fashionistas and foodies.
Beautiful Cardiff has everything a creative could possibly want from a growing, liveable city. It's by the sea. It's very friendly. And there's an incredible amount of creativity going on everywhere you look. The capital and largest city in Wales, it's the 10th largest city in the whole of the UK and is part of the historic county of Glamorgan.
A small town until the 19th century, it became a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of the industry in the area, which led to its status as a major city today. Since the 1990s there has been significant investment and development in Cardiff. There's a stunning new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay where the Senedd building proudly sits - home of the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre. And further developments are underway throughout Cardiff, including the Cardiff International Sports Village and a new business district in the city centre.
Speaking of the creative industries, Cardiff is the UK's largest media centre outside of London and is home to BBC Wales, S4C and ITV Wales. There is also an independent TV production industry of over 600 firms, employing around 6,000 people and contributing £350million to the local economy. Did you know Doctor Who and Casualty are filmed here! It's all because of the BBC's purpose-built drama village called Roath Lock.
Then you have the new £6million Centre for the Creative Industries, a 40,000 sq ft centre which will create a hub for Wales' creative industries once it is built.
7. Brighton & Hove
Brighton & Hove is a wonderfully creative city, nestled on the south coast of East Sussex, with the beautiful South Downs standing majestically behind it. Its official title is 'Brighton & Hove' after the two towns were brought together in 2000 and granted city status – although many of the locals still consider the two to be separate. Forgive me if I refer to the place merely as 'Brighton' – those who live in Hove won't mind because they still consider Hove to be separate and will only say 'Hove Actually', so I'm off the hook!
With so much creativity going down, Brighton is a magnet for artistic folk and people who work in the creative industries. The city is teeming with artists, musicians, designers and writers dotted all over the place. All the locals joke that most of The Guardian's workforce live in Brighton, but they're probably right. London is just under an hour away, and as it's so close, Brighton is often referred to as 'London-by-Sea' following an influx of Londoners moving to the area over the past decade.
When it comes to freelancers, it's a great place to set up shop. Brighton has a particular focus on tech and digital, adding further to this wonderful, thriving creative hub by the sea. Even better, it's England's most popular seaside resort with a beautiful long, pebbly beach (think summer BBQs with your friends after work, right by the sea), two traditional seaside piers - one of which was sadly destroyed by fire in 2003. Known as the 'West Pier', it now stands as an eery but stunning city emblem that local creatives love to paint or photograph.
Brighton has loads of parks and the surrounding countryside is some of the best in the UK. It has the famous Lanes and North Laine area where street performers, local bands and musicians entertain the crowds, and there are lots of independent shops to browse around. It's so good and so wonderful, I lived there for six months last year and miss it hugely.
Ah, the City of Dundee. Tucked away in the eastern central Lowlands of Scotland on the north bank of the Firth of Tay, it's a beautiful part of the world and is bursting with creative, passionate people all eager to share their wonderful home.
The fourth-largest city in Scotland, it expanded rapidly in the 19th century, largely because of the 'jute' industry - this, along with many other big industries including journalism and marmalade - gave Dundee its byname as the city of 'jute, jam and journalism'.
Today, it's promoted as 'One City, Many Discoveries', giving a respectful nod to Dundee's historic scientific past, one such example being the RRS Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic exploration vessel, which was built in Dundee and is now pitched up in the city harbour.
And with a wealth of local creative talent, arts organisations, startups and freelancers all hugely keen to help boost their own city, it's set to be an even bigger and better creative success story. There's no 'resting on laurels' here or complaints about the recession - everyone is working really hard and just getting on with it. They even jump into the freezing sea for a traditional New Year's Day Dook! And you can see this passion everywhere you go. What more could you want from a thriving creative city?
Bournemouth is a large coastal town on the south coast of England and is the largest settlement in Dorset, lying directly east from the Jurassic Coast – a 95-mile World Heritage Site.
The seaside resort has a thriving creative scene with over 450 creative agencies across Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole and it even boasts the UK's fastest residential broadband network and Europe's fastest free WiFi, supplied by @FusionWifi.
There are also two first-class universities and a wealth of arts venues, entertainment and culture, enjoyed by over 400,000 happy locals. In fact, in a 2007 survey, Bournemouth was found to be the happiest place in the UK. And it's easy to understand why.
Nottingham is a wonderfully creative city in the heart of the East Midlands, famed for its links with Robin Hood and worldwide recognition for its lace-making, bicycle and tobacco industries which came about during the Industrial Revolution.
Today, the creative industries are literally buzzing here with graphic design, interiors and textiles all playing a large part in its continued economic growth. There is already a thriving design and new media industry in the city, and it's the birthplace and joint headquarters of legendary fashion designer Paul Smith.