An ambitious project to build Plymouth’s creative industries and nurture creative people power for Mayflower400 and beyond has been awarded a massive £3.5 million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

An additional £750,000 has been awarded to Mayflower400 and £2.75 million for exciting new creative sector initiatives that could see over 4,000 people offered training, business support and professional development opportunities as part of the iMayflower project. It aims to support the makers, the doers, artists, the digital pioneers and the wider Plymouth population by giving them the know-how to make things happen.

Plymouth City Council, Destination Plymouth, Mayflower 400, Plymouth College of Art, Real Ideas Organisation and the University of Plymouth have teamed up to address the growing demand for the city’s creative sector to realise its potential, offering new opportunities, creative spaces and skills.

Over 200 businesses and social enterprises will benefit from support to develop new products, services, content and jobs over the next financial year, providing skills development for people from a range of communities, ages and backgrounds.

The Mayflower400 Culture and Heritage Programme is already shaping up to be a game changer for Plymouth with art, music, theatre, exhibitions, storytelling, digital innovation, literature, crafts, festivals, debates and more. Every aspect of the Mayflower story is being explored together with its relevance to life today.

iMayflower will help Plymouth shout about its culture and creativity offer, develop a long term, sustainable legacy and provide skills and learning opportunities through events and community engagement. It will also look to support creative sector businesses to become more visible on an international stage.

It involves work with partners across the city who are developing digital technology, such as 3-D printing, virtual reality or ‘immersive technology’ to help the city expand its expertise in advanced manufacturing, robotics and digital making.

Council leader Tudor Evans OBE said: “I’m really pleased about this news for the Mayflower programme as it very well reflects the national importance of the project.

This announcement for funding to develop creative industries is extremely exciting. Plymouth has built a creative industry sector from scratch in a short number of years and this funding means we can harness the talent we have now and develop it for the future.”

The programme will tap into and build on the huge array of initiatives already being worked on for Mayflower400 and will give them the extra edge, which will add a wow factor for audiences. Plymouth’s Illuminate event is an example of how a light show can grow to become a multi-media event that captivated thousands of visitors on cold November nights.

Another key aim of iMayflower is to help companies and organisation access finance through a partnership with Crowdfunder and Creative England.

Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal and Chief Executive Officer for Plymouth College of Art said: “This project represents a real step change for the city and for Plymouth College of Art, as we build a creative ecology that nurtures talent and empowers our citizens as makers, artists and designers.

iMayflower gives us a real platform to deliver a programme of activity that places creative education and social justice at the heart of an ambitious project that will further increase the profile of Plymouth as a great place to live, work and one that invests in its creative communities and all important maker culture. We can’t wait to get started!

Chris Bennewith, Head of the School of Art Design & Architecture at the University of Plymouth said: “The Cultural Development Fund will allow the dynamic fusion of the region’s creative talent and excellent digital resources, with existing strengths in sectors such as healthcare, marine and tourism. This will provide Plymouth with exciting and innovative means of creating new products, services and experiences vital for refreshing and adapting the local economy and continuing to improve the liveability of our city. This is Open Innovation so we will be inviting as many people as possible to be involved with the myriad of activities proposed in the project. The University of Plymouth is extremely pleased to be part of the partnership delivering iMayflower.”

Lindsey Hall, founder and CEO of Real Ideas Organisation added: “iMayflower is a major reset moment for our creative economy and the vital role innovation and the creative industries play as we tackle the pressing problems of our age. It is all about investment in our excellent creative talent; our burgeoning immersive and digital technologies; our extensive skills as makers and the enterprising, inclusive, creative ecology we are building. iMayflower will support new ideas, businesses, jobs and opportunities for young people – we are delighted to be part of it and looking forward to getting going!

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “Creativity, arts and heritage make our towns and cities unique and our communities better places to live. The Cultural Development Fund will support tailored local plans that use culture to create jobs, boost tourism and ultimately regenerate communities.

This is an incredible opportunity for Plymouth to capitalise on the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower. It will help engage the local community in their shared heritage and promote the city to the world through digital technologies, making this a truly 21st century project.