AROUND 60 businesses and other local organisations learnt about opportunities in the cultural sector at a recent conference.

Organised by Thurrock Council and partners such as the Royal Opera House and the Creative Employment Programme, the ‘Culture Change’ event at High House Production Park helped delegates learn about possible funding sources and employment support for the creative industries.

Organisations also had the chance to take part in workshops and enjoyed a tour of the Royal Opera House backstage production facility.

Culture Change is intended to help arts organisations become both financially and environmentally sustainable.

Thurrock Council leader John Kent said: "In Thurrock we have long recognised that our great location near London, enthusiastic people and rich history and geography are attractive to these industries.

"The council has set about ensuring our people have the skills and training so they can fill the jobs that the businesses attending this event are set to create. We believe many could even set up their own businesses in these rewarding sectors."

Speakers and workshop leaders ranged from local business people to a civil servant at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Andrea Stark, chief executive of the High House Production Park, said: "Small companies working in the creative industries found the experience itself both a creative and practical opportunity to make contacts and find new ideas for improving their own business.

"We’ve obviously uncovered a demand for further business networking events and now we want to get something more regular off the ground soon."

Caroline Thomas, chief executive officer with Tilbury-based social media marketing and training company Sales Scene and one of the workshop leaders, said: "The Culture Change conference was brilliant. It was very refreshing to network within my own sector and I have made some great new contacts - some of which were right here in Thurrock."