Belfast Telegraph

Why getting creative can help give you a cash boost

As the creative industry continues to grow at an accelerated rate, entrepreneurs explain the benefits of innovation funding, writes Clare Weir

By Clare Weir

Companies making lights made out of milking parlour equipment, flat-pack houses for disaster zones and landscapes out of porcelain are among 300 which have benefited from £5.1m worth of arts funding.

They are now calling on other firms to make use of the latest round of the Creative Industries Innovation Funding (CIIF) from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which is now open until mid-February.

The scheme provides seed funding of up to £10,000 to creative businesses and up to £200,000 to sectoral development bodies to enable the development of new products and services.

A rapidly growing sector, the latest research by KPMG, commissioned by the Arts Council at the end of last year, forecasts the gross added value of the creative industries in Northern Ireland will be close to £1bn by 2015, with 37,000 employed.

An autumn 2012 report by Oxford Economics notes the only sectors continuing to grow and expand are the professional services and the arts and leisure sectors.

Here, we look at some of the businesses which have already benefited from the CIIF.

I Do Cartwheels/Parlour Lighting range

Co Londonderry designer, Donna Bates, has adopted an illuminating view of traditional milking parlour equipment with the launch of her first lighting collection, Parlour Lighting.

Inspired by a childhood spent growing up on the family dairy farm near Lough Neagh, and funded by a CIIF grant, Parlour Lighting is the latest collection from Donna, who founded her Killyleagh design showroom and product design studio 'I Do Cartwheels' in 2009.

Parlour Lighting uses milking parlour receiving jars that were used to collect the cow's milk to craft handmade table and pendant lamps.

"I would like people to approach the Parlour Lighting as they would a piece of art or sculpture, as not only are they beautiful and functional, but they also tell a story of bygone days and that has resonance with a lot of people".

Parlour Lighting and the rest of Donna's portfolio can be viewed and ordered online at and in the I Do Cartwheels showroom in Killyleagh, Co Down.

The Creativity Hub/The Extraordinaires Design Studio

Belfast-based husband-and-wife team, Rory O'Connor and Anita Murphy, are founders of The Creativity Hub and inventors of the multi award-winning storytelling game, Rory's Story Cubes, which has sold 1.5m units worldwide and held the coveted number one spot across all toys and games on in Christmas 2011.

Now, the couple want to inspire the next generation of design thinkers with the Extraordinaires Design Studio.

Anita said the game aims to address a lack of resources for creative problem solving, presenting ideas and giving feedback.

Players role-play being designers, inventing products for the Extraordinaires.

Mr O'Connor said the funding allowed the couple to invest in digital illustration assets for the game and carry out initial design on an iPad app version.

"Our experience with Rory's Story Cubes taught us that it is possible to create something that has educational impact while being entertaining, desirable and commercially viable," he said.

The Extraordinaires Design Studio can be ordered online from

It is also available in retail outlets, in Art and Hobby (Victoria Square, Belfast), Learning Space (Fountain Street Belfast) and No Alibis (Botanic Avenue, Belfast).

Whittrick Press

Digital publisher Whittrick Press launched in June and their first publication was by award-winning novelist and playwright Bernie McGill.

Sleepwalkers is McGill's debut collection of short stories and explores the lives of women across the generations.

Founded by David Lewis and Hugh Odling-Smee, the firm sets out to bring new writing and new ideas to readers in innovative and interesting ways.

With an eye-catching brand created by renowned artist and designer Rory Jeffers, Whittrick Press intends to bring 20 e-books to the market by the end of 2014, with plans to develop a non-fiction imprint, as well as developing new products to enhance the reading experience.

Mr Lewis said: "Whittrick Press brings the traditional values of literary publishing to the digital age, working with writers to package their work in the most appropriate formats, whether that's an e-book, an app or a limited edition print copy."

Whittrick Press has an open submissions policy, meaning anyone can submit work. Visit for details on the submission process.

Stephen Farnan Pottery/Porcelain Landscapes

After establishing his business in 2002, Stephen Farnan is now combining his drawing and ceramic skills to create a unique collection.

Inspired by landscape scenes from around Ireland, this new body of work was launched in November 2013 at Belfast's Black Box and became a festive gift favourite at the Christmas Market in Belfast.

Mr Farnan said his £10,000 grant enabled him to double his portfolio, get the collection into production and bring it to market.

He has now also taken on an apprentice, Conchobar Hayes, through the Youth Employment Scheme.

"I had always kept the ceramic and drawing aspects of my business separate, however, while developing a new line of tableware last year for a restaurant in Armagh, I decided to play about with some of my landscape drawings by applying them as ceramic transfers," he said.

Stephen's full collection can be viewed at

Dog Ears/Puffin Rock

Dog Ears is a children's media company based in Londonderry creating quality content for kids.

Puffin Rock is a pre-school project that focuses on a family of puffins who live on a beautiful island off the coast of Ireland. The original concept was created by Cartoon Saloon, an Oscar-nominated animation studio based in Kilkenny.

In July 2012 Penguin publishing, which calls its entire children's division Puffin, came on board to provide a perfect fit.

Along with Cartoon Saloon and Penguin, Dog Ears is working towards a global roll-out of Puffin Rock as a multi-platform brand.

The first round of funding was used to create an animated, interactive app with music and game features based on the Puffin Rock story. Both the Puffin Rock book and app were launched in 2012.

The second round of CIIF funding created a trailer or test animation for Puffin Rock, which is now being used to sell the brand to broadcasters and as a showreel on websites and social networking.

Production on the Puffin Rock cartoon began in Autumn 2013 in Kilkenny and Derry and the series will be broadcast by Nick Jr in the UK and RTEjr in Ireland, narrated by actor Chris O'Dowd.

abigail*ryan homewares

abigail*ryan is the brand of Belfast-based husband and wife design team, Abigail and Ryan Bell.

Entering the market in late 2009, the firm's products have sold through well known stores such as Liberty London and Fenwick's of Bond Street.

April 2013 saw the launch of the collaboration abigail*ryan created with Jo Malone London and their style editor, Charlotte Stockdale. The black and white illustrated items, with splashes of neon, were available exclusively at Selfridges London and Manchester Exchange at the curated boutique, Charlotte's Corner and celebrated Jo Malone's most-loved fragrance, Red Roses.

Their very first trade show saw them winning a Best New Exhibitor award, as judged by Liberty homeware buyer Michelle Alger.

Working together, the pair combine Abigail's nature inspired illustrations with Ryan's love or colour and graphic design to produce fabric designs and objects for the home.

abigail*ryan is a current (2013) recipient of a CIIF grant which they are using to extend their existing product range and to create a collection of kitchen and homeware gifts.

Arts Council and Culture bosses now inviting funding applications

The next round of Creative Industries Innovation Funding (CIIF) from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), opened for applications yesterday with a deadline of February 13 at 4pm.

Guidelines and application forms are available online at

The CIIF team in the Arts Council will host a number of one-to-one sessions throughout January and early February. Booking is essential – if interested, email

Administered by the Arts Council, with funding from DCAL, CIIF funding provides seed money to creative businesses (up to £10,000), and sectoral development bodies (up to £20,000), to enable the development of new products and services.

To date, 301 projects have been supported with a £5.1m CIIF funding investment.

Belfast Telegraph