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Unlocking culture’s contribution to local growth

Reflections on the Cultural Cities Enquiry

Jonathan Todd, BOP’s Chief Economist, spoke alongside Darren Henley, CEO, Arts Council England, and Sophie Miremadi, Director – External Affairs, Virgin Money, at the Beyond the Hype: Re-wiring the Growth Agenda conference.

BOP was invited to discuss the context for the Cultural Cities Enquiry, which BOP has worked on throughout this year. These issues are relevant to other BOP projects aiming to achieve culture-led economic growth.

Some key contexts for the Enquiry:

  • Pressure on local authority budgets persists: This traditional source of cultural funding has declined over the past decade, necessitating new models of cultural funding
  • Worst regional inequalities in Europe: The wealth, health and productivity divergences between UK regions are substantial
  • Culture strengthens civic purpose: The poorest parts of the UK can feel like their best days are behind them. People and places with limited pride in themselves tend to underperform. But culture can help turn this around. The Hepworth Wakefield, for example, has brought new confidence to West Yorkshire, helping to catalyse further investment in the town
  • Culture to put the place-based into industrial strategy: The past decade has seen a revival of industrial strategy. Culture makes places distinctive, while the missions of cultural institutions can complement those of local industrial strategies. These institutions should, therefore, be confident and agile in building new alliances
  • Scale-up success: Many cultural institutions are already making these partnerships with local industry. But these successes need to be accelerated. We look forward to the Cultural Cities Enquiry articulating how this might occur when it reports in the new year.