Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Regional Cities East (RCE) (arts 148)

1. Executive summary

1.1 Regional Cities East (RCE) is an alliance of six cities in the East of England. The cities, Peterborough, Luton, Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester and Southend-on-Sea, believe that by sharing best practice, collaborating on joint ventures and setting clear priorities, they can create more jobs and affordable homes than they could by working alone.

1.2 Networks of high quality arts and culture projects in smaller cities can offer solutions to a range of national challenges. Continued investment and support for these networks will help the Government reach its economic, social and democratic ambitions despite the current economic climate. But, as much as support will direct energy and resources in ways that have wide ranging and positive local and national impacts, sudden withdrawal of that support will have the inverse effect.

1.3 Together with central government and the private and voluntary sector, our cities have made considerable capital investment in the arts and heritage over the last decade. The returns on this investment will be enjoyed over many years to come in the form of economic growth, greater community cohesion and higher levels of citizen engagement. However, these returns are dependent on continued revenue investment to ensure the upkeep and successful operation of the high quality projects that have been developed. If that funding is withdrawn suddenly, without alternative funding mechanisms being in place and a transition to those arrangements having been agreed, the considerable capital sums invested to date could be in vain. RCE recognises that cuts are likely, and has explored the role that philanthropy and the private sector can play in supporting the arts, but any transition of funding must be handled in a measured and ordered way.

1.4 As these decisions are taken, consideration should also be given to the way in which arts organisations can work more closely together. We recommend:

· Developing functional cultural areas within which local authorities, Arts Council England and the cultural sector can develop a programme of co-investment that focuses resources on key assets, organisations and high profile, high impact interventions. Functional areas for culture should be factored into emerging plans for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

· Collaborating to maximise resources and impact: Functional cultural areas should see local authorities’ pool resources into shared Cultural Services teams and open up collaborative commissioning opportunities.

· Empowering creative communities: Arts centres of excellence should work with local government and other organisations within the professional and amateur arts sector to develop creative public engagement which strengthens communities and enables cohesion and citizenship.

· Harnessing creative leadership: Arts leaders can play a significant role as civic leaders, collaborating with local authorities to shape local priorities, advocate for the value and contribution of arts and culture to future well-being and prosperity, and drive increased philanthropy locally.

2. Introduction

2.1 Regional Cities East (RCE) is an alliance of six cities in the East of England. The cities, Peterborough, Luton, Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester and Southend-on-Sea, believe that by sharing best practice, collaborating on joint ventures and setting clear priorities, they can create more jobs and affordable homes than they could by working alone. They share a common belief - that smaller cities can deliver economic growth in a sustainable way. And they face common challenges – to improve infrastructure and skill levels.

2.2 The cities of RCE have found that carefully targeted support for the right arts and culture projects is a good way to use scarce resources efficiently to engage society in addressing the recession, rapid demographic change and an increasing public scepticism towards institutions. Cuts to central and local government funding that are not accompanied by a transition to new funding models and ways of working will undermine the considerable progress that has been made.

2.3 This submission will address two of the key questions that have been posed by the Committee:

i) what impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central/local government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level

ii) what arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale

3. The impact of spending cuts from central and local government

3.1 Cuts will impact on the efforts of Regional Cities East to rekindle economic growth, build community cohesion and engage people in the Big Society.

Impact on economic growth

3.2 Arts and culture help to drive national economic success. In 2007, before the global financial crisis hit, the creative industries accounted for £59.9bn or 6.2% of UK Gross Value Added (GVA) with £16.6bn in exports and nearly 2m jobs.1 Arts and culture are central to tourism in the UK; this was worth £86 billion in 2007 – 3.7% of GDP – and directly employed 1.4 million people.2 Inbound cultural tourism is a vital export earner for the UK economy, worth £16.3 billion to the UK economy in 2008.3

3.3 This national picture is supported by numerous local investments by the public sector in the arts and heritage. For example, firstsite in Colchester is a world-class contemporary visual arts organisation founded in 1994, which runs a host of outreach programmes working with art to engage schools, universities and the wider community. Visitor numbers have grown by 400% in the past ten years, so more space is needed.4

3.4 firstsite’s new home, which has been designed by internationally acclaimed architect Rafael Viňoly, will include a gallery and presentation spaces; education spaces; a 200 seat auditorium with conference facilities, a shop and a cafe. It is expected to act as a cultural landmark for the region and attract 1.5 million visitors over the next 10 years.5 £28 million has been invested in the visual arts facility, which will open in autumn 2011.

3.5 One of the key economic benefits of firstsite’s new home is that it will act as a catalyst to transform the run-down and neglected St Botolph’s area into Colchester’s cultural quarter. The plans for the mixed-use regeneration scheme put forward by Garbe Development in partnership with Ash Sakula Architects have already levered in £50 million of investment. The proposed scheme will include 12,000 sq ft of retail space to let, a 7,500 sq ft creative business centre offering SMEs (small and medium enterprises) support and networking opportunities, up to 150 homes (50 of which will be affordable), a 90-bed hotel, and a mix of independent retail, cafes and restaurants

3.5 The ongoing funding model for firstsite includes contributions from public, private and voluntary sources. If public sector funding is cut without a transition towards an alternative model being secured, then the public and private sector investment so far could be jeopardised.

Impact on community cohesion

3.6 Arts and culture bridge community divides and foster a sense of shared identity. As a major research project backed by the British Council found "Culture enables us to appreciate points of commonality and, where there are differences, to understand the motivations and humanity that underlie them." 6

3.7 The UK’s journey towards multi-culturalism has not been without difficulty. As a greater variety of ethnicities, faiths and cultures have found themselves living side-by-side, tensions have inevitable emerged. But diversity does not have to mean fragmentation. Growing populations bring new cultural assets and experiences to places, which can complement and combine with the very best of all that has gone before. This type of cultural interplay forges a sense of shared local identity. This not only binds local people together, it creates the opportunity to present a bold and confident face to the outside world.

3.8 The arts offer a forum for this cultural interplay to occur. At their most fundamental the arts are about people expressing themselves, their experiences and their understandings of the world. Places where people best share their own cultures and have an appreciation of local heritage are likely to be those rich in opportunity for people to engage in artistic expression. Thriving local arts are therefore an essential part of building a cohesive sense of identity.

3.9 For local leaders in cities, the cohesion challenge is particularly pressing. Cities tend to have higher than average levels of diversity. This is true in the East of England, where the majority of the region’s Black and Minority Ethnic community lives in urban areas – the minority group percentage of the population in RCE cities is 14.11% in comparison to 8.4% overall in the East of England. In smaller cities, simple geography makes greater social interaction between different groups much more likely.

3.10 The challenges of multiple identities are compounded for smaller cities, whose diversity is set to increase as their populations grow. Engendering a sense of shared identity, which does not diminish the diverse other identities people hold, is an issue that community arts and culture are well placed to address. Opening up opportunities for people of all backgrounds to tap and build on the artistic heritage of a city can help develop a shared sense of identity.

3.11 This desire to develop a shared sense of identity underpins the £7.3 million UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) in Luton, which opened in May 2009 and is the new home of Europe’s biggest one-day carnival. The event attracts some of the world’s best carnival artists to take part alongside Luton’s residents who can learn how to make costumes and engage with carnival arts.

3.12 UKCCA is not only promoting cohesion through the one-day annual event, it runs year round activity, including dance and mask making. It ties in many of its activities around calendar events such as Black History Month and International Day for Older People. The centre complements the work of Luton in Harmony, which is led by Luton Borough Council on behalf of the Local Strategic Partnership.

3.13 The Carnival has a significant positive impact on the economy of Luton, but the UKCCA itself depends on public sector finance for its work throughout the year. Public sector cuts before an alternative funding model has been found would jeopardise the investment of public and private sector partners to date.

Arts and culture as a route to the Big Society

3.14 Arts and culture provide the means for people to make an active contribution to civic life. In 2004 a government study found that, "cultural activities can be highly effective in improving the skills and confidence of individuals and improving the quality of life and the capacity of communities to solve their own problems. Such activities can contribute to the physical economic and social regeneration of an area."7

3.15 A dominant story in the run up to the 2010 election concerned the public’s increasing skepticism towards institutions. Even setting aside the expenses scandal, which dominated headlines, feelings of disengagement have been worryingly high. In April-December 2009, only 37% of people felt they could influence decisions in their local area, and only 20% felt they could influence decisions affecting Britain8.

3.16 However, people are keen to play a role in their communities and have an influence on the quality of local life, with 41% of adults taking part in some sort of formal volunteering at least once in 2009.8 This drive to encourage active citizenship needs to be met with spaces where people can come together and find common ground to make the change in their communities that the state cannot.

3.17 Citizen Power puts into practice the principles that underpin the big society. Driven by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce (RSA), this innovative programme includes a wide range of projects that will help citizens become more self-reliant, resilient, altruistic and creative. It is already helping Peterborough to overcome some of the local challenges the city faces around drug-related crime, educational attainment, in addition to building levels of engagement and trust amongst local people.

3.18 Central to Citizen Power is the arts programme. It will develop a series of creative events, artists’ residencies and high profile commissions in which international and local artists will work with local people in Peterborough to help create a blueprint for active, sustainable citizenship in the city. This activity will build on the existing arts and cultural landscape in Peterborough.

3.19 The objectives for Citizen Power are to encourage creative, citizen-led policy innovation to enable the public to come up with new ways of delivering policies and services and also to grow a vibrant arts and culture offer.

3.20 While the Citizen Power programme builds from the bottom up, it is dependent on funding from local government to catalyse the actions of local people. Cuts to its funding would cancel out the multiplier effect that such public sector investment can have.

4. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together?

4.1 Across the RCE network of cities high quality arts projects are making powerful contributions to tackling the country’s most pressing economic, social and democratic challenges. They are doing so by working collaboratively and recognising the value for money that investment in the arts and heritage represents.

Arts and culture delivering value for money

4.2 For every £1 that the Arts Council invests, an additional £2 is generated from private and commercial sources, totaling £3 income. At a local level this investment can lever five times its worth.

What arts organisations can do to work more closely together?

4.3 Across RCE, activities and interventions must respond to a vision that is specific to each city’s strengths and needs in order to deliver high impact results. The six cities have built on their existing strengths, led by arts organisations with the potential to achieve a national and international profile, delivering significant social and economic returns to the community in which they are based. In this way, arts and cultural initiatives in smaller cities offer a tantalising opportunity to deliver the new principles of localism and decentralisation.

4.4 Based on the RCE experience, we recommend four policy measures to ensure the success of arts and culture in smaller cities:

· Develop functional cultural areas: Just as the economy is driven by functional economic areas there is the potential to develop functional areas for culture. Within these areas local authorities, Arts Council England and the cultural sector can develop a programme of co-investment that focuses resources on key assets, organisations and high profile, high impact interventions. Public money and the combined advocacy of the partners can be used to lever other sources of investment finance and philanthropy. Functional areas for culture should be factored into emerging plans for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

· Collaborate to maximise resources and impact: Functional cultural areas should see local authorities’ pool resources into shared Cultural Services teams. This would enable efficiency savings and more effective exploitation of existing cultural assets. Further linkage across local authorities could enable collaborative commissioning opportunities for the cultural sector to deliver services across the area.

· Empower creative communities: Arts centres of excellence should work with local government and other organisations within the professional and amateur arts sector to develop creative public engagement which strengthens communities and enables cohesion and citizenship. The big society thinking about the role of social enterprise, mutuals and charities offers opportunities for new financial vehicles and ways of working, for example through community led trusts or partnerships.

· Harness creative leadership: Arts leaders can play a significant role as civic leaders, collaborating with local authorities to shape local priorities, advocate for the value and contribution of arts and culture to future well-being and prosperity, and drive increased philanthropy locally.

5. Conclusion

5.1 The coming years will be difficult. Public spending cuts may make it tempting for vital partners to withdraw support for arts and culture projects. This would be a mistake. The value of arts and culture to the success of our cities is apparent, so it is important that visionary schemes such as those illustrated here continue to be backed and endorsed by Government. Arts and culture projects that offer a high quality experience to communities can drive economic growth, build social cohesion, and encourage active citizenship. Thanks to this people will be able to enjoy the benefits of living in vibrant, welcoming areas able to approach the future with confidence.

September 2010


[1] Arts Council figure: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/about-us/why-arts-matter/facts-and-figures/

[2] VisitBritain report - The British Tourism Industry Today, see p.6 of this report - http://www.visitbritain.org/Images/btfr%20full%20final_tcm139-173003.pdf

[3] Office of National Statistics passenger survey see table on page 8 of this report - http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_transport/travel-trends09.pdf

[4] Creative Collaborations: A Shared Prospectus for Growth 2009-2011, EEDA and Arts Council England , 2009

[5] Creative Collaborations, EEDA and Arts Council England , 2009

[6] Bounds, Briggs, Holdon, Jones ‘Cultural Diplomacy’ Demos 2007

[7] DCMS: Culture at the Heart of Regeneration

[8] Ibid