Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Northwest Regional Development Agency (arts 171)

1. A submission by Nick Brooks-Sykes, Director of Tourism, Northwest Regional Development Agency

2. On 28 July the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee announced an inquiry into the funding of the arts and heritage and invited submissions and views on a number of issues relating to this (see appendix).

3. The NWDA and its partners in the region have carried out research into the importance of heritage to the region’s visitor economy, and have invested funds in support of projects relating to both heritage and the arts. Key partners are English Heritage, The Arts Council and The Heritage Lottery Fund and the NW Historic Environment Forum. There is therefore a body of evidence and experience that is, potentially at least, of relevance and interest to the committee.

4. The NWDA and its partners have:

4.1. Commissioned research into the following areas:

Heritage Tourism, 2010;

The Economic Impact of Heritage, 2009;

Historic Towns & Cities in England’s Northwest, 2005;

Perceptions of the Northwest and its tourism products, 2010

Research into the activities and expenditure of both overnight and same day tourists (day visitors), 2007 & 2009;

4.2. Supported or led the development of:

The Lancaster Heritage Tourism Strategy;

The Merseyside Heritage Investment Strategy;

A Cultural Investment Framework;

4.3. Supported the following project activity:

The Northwest Heritage Tourism Programme

Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd

Roman Maryport

Carlisle Roman Gateway

Museum Renaissance (Renaissance in the Regions)

The Lake District National Park WHS Bid

Art in Oxford Road

Industrial Powerhouse

Jodrell Bank

Liverpool Biennial (with ERDF)

Liverpool Capital of Culture

Liverpool Everyman (with ERDF)

Liverpool WHS

Lowther (with ERDF)

Manchester International Festival

Manchester Museum of Science & Industry

The National Football Museum

The Tate, Liverpool

Visitor Economy Development Pilot Projects in Carlisle’s historic centre, including its Cathedral, Chester, around the Cathedral, Liverpool, and Manchester’s Cultural Corridor

5. This range of interventions and investment means that the Agency and its partners have the experience and knowledge to contribute meaningfully to the Select Committee’s inquiry, and in particular to address the question of ‘what arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale’.

Key Points

6. Coordination of activity and investment by publicly funded bodies involved in the arts and heritage makes sense and delivers benefits

6.1. In the Northwest, the NWDA, English Heritage, Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund have held regular meetings to discuss policies, priorities and investment. Among other things, this coordination has led to jointly commissioned research and to the establishment of a jointly funded Heritage Tourism post for the region, together with a small capital fund to support investment in heritage properties.

6.2. There are clear benefits arising from the creation of a set of shared priorities, from the decisions on investments that follow from this, and from the improved knowledge and understanding arising from research undertaken in a consistent and coordinated manner

6.3. The work of the NWDA in supporting a regional Major Events Strategy has been highly significant in attracting events to the Northwest region, generating £150m for the regional economy since 2004. Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture generated £800m for the City Region in 2008 alone, over 3.5m first-time visitors and £176m in tourism spend.

6.4. Coordination activity by public bodies (and by Tourist Boards in particular) can help the private sector to capitalise on the cultural and heritage assets within their locality, for example: through a focus on the creation of an appropriate and high quality public realm within heritage or cultural zones within a wider city or town setting, and; through help to businesses to better understand, and promote and sell to, the visitor audience for such places and attractions.

6.5. Evidence submitted to the recent BIS Select Committee by Andrea Nixon, Executive Director of Tate Liverpool1 and member of the Northwest Visitor Economy Commission, supports the assertion being made. While the references are to the NWDA, the point is that there is value to be gained from a coordinating / leadership role at a level about that of the individual destination:

6.5.1. ‘…the NWDA supports the sector by leading a clear Tourism strategy with agreed priorities shared across a large and diverse region. It has particularly focused on investment in projects of international significance to help grow the visitor economy to its current £14.3bn annual value to the North West; the NWDA is also critical in effective promotion of the region on an international scale and in working to help attract and market major events in the North West, including some of Tate Liverpool’s own exhibitions such as Picasso: Peace and Freedom. The Agency has had a particular role in avoiding unhelpful tourism competition between sub regions (e.g. it was pivotal in ensuring that Manchester International Festival was programmed in a different year from Liverpool’s Capital of Culture) and it has helped lever considerable extra resources from other private and public sources through its early support for large-scale projects (e.g. the 2007 Turner Prize at Tate Liverpool, where the RDA’s investment of £100,000 generated a further £350,000 public/private partnership cash support for the project). It has then helped these projects be collectively marketed to an international audience through its own marketing activities, with the resulting benefit that economic impact could be clearly measured through private business gain (e.g. Tate Liverpool’s Gustav Klimt exhibition in 2008 contributed £11.1.m into the city region economy outside the gallery.’

6.5.2. ‘Having strategic responsibility for tourism properly aligned at regional level with the wider economic development agenda has been advantageous and enabled the visitor economy to benefit from a wide range of Agency investments. There has been particular benefit from having collaboration rather than competition through a regionally co-ordinated approach for cultural tourism, and an ability to spread good practice (e.g. the development of a cultural tourism online portal for Manchester, with an integrated box office, which can now be rolled out elsewhere in the region). Keeping strategic planning aligned to larger economic goals has been very positive for a variety of exceptional cultural events across the region and we need this approach more than ever in current times.’

7. Heritage and Culture are highly important drivers of tourism activity

7.1. The Committee will be well aware of the evidence available in two recent reports1 concerning the importance of heritage and culture to the UK’s tourism sector. Research within the northwest confirms this, while adding depth and insight to nationally commissioned research.

7.2. Whilst heritage is not the Northwest’s strongest tourism offer, it is nonetheless the case that Museums and Art Galleries, along with Leisure & Theme Parks, are the most popular attraction type in the Northwest, each representing 28% of visits' and 'Historic Houses / House & Gardens / Palaces are the next most popular attraction type in the region'.2

7.3. Policy relating to heritage and culture does not always properly acknowledge the importance of day and overnight tourist visitors. For example the publication ‘Taking Part: The National Survey of Culture, Leisure and Sport, Adult and Child Report 2009/10’3 contains no reference to tourism or tourists in the substantive part of the report. The data that underlies the report does not include anything on the nature of the visit. This lack of recognition of the importance of tourism behaviour undermines attempts to understand the motivation and context for engagement with the areas covered (which include heritage, museums and galleries, and the arts), and as a consequence it also impairs policy-making.

7.4. London dominates the UK’s heritage and culture offer and in tourism terms is the outstanding UK destination, particularly for overseas visitors. This dominance and the media focus on London based activity that is a consequence, mean that all other places have a struggle to compete. There is very clearly the potential for more to be done to attract both domestic and overseas tourism visitors to destinations outside London, as the success of Liverpool 08 demonstrates. However to capitalise on these opportunities requires a medium to long term commitment and the recognition of other points made here.

8. Notwithstanding their importance as drivers of tourism, visitors typically seek a range of experiences in the place they visit; heritage and cultural experiences need to be entertaining and interactive, part of a wider set of things to do and to be linked strongly to the destinations in which they are located

8.1. Key insights from research into heritage tourism in the region include:

8.1.1. Decisions about breaks and holidays are made primarily on place (and people need reassurance there will be enough things to do or they are unlikely to take the risk) rather than on individual attractions and themes. Very few attractions are strong enough to drive visits in their own right. Themes (by themselves) don’t work. Themes and stories are more appropriately used to give a place (or an attraction) personality and identity. Achieving this requires joint working / coordination, and the involvement of tourist boards or other destination management organisations.

8.1.2. Often heritage is a backdrop; picturesque streetscapes in which to shop, eat or stroll. A clean, high quality public realm with well-restored and used historic buildings is a fundamental requirement for a heritage destination.

8.1.3. Even for those who are interested in a deeper heritage experience it will only be part of ‘filling a day’.

8.1.4. Heritage experiences must be tangible, entertaining, lively and fun.

8.1.5. Placemaking should include the preservation and productive use of heritage buildings, parks and public spaces and arguably this is a more important role for local authorities than the promotion of visitor attractions.

8.2. The conclusion of a report on the Economic Value of Heritage in the North West for the NWDA was that heritage townscapes (as opposed to individual sites or attractions) are the most significant drivers of economic impact.

9. Joint working between institutions has the potential to be improved and can generate significant benefits for the institutions concerned

9.1. The NWDA funded a project called ‘Raising the Game’ in partnership with regional Museum Renaissance activity and was influential in determining project objectives. Project activity involved a small number of key museums in the region. Areas of focus included: learning lessons and applying best practice with respect to the retail activity of the museums concerned; joint working between museums in Manchester intended to align the presentation of their offer with the City’s Original Modern branding, which led to the creation of the www.creativetourist.com website; support for investments in gallery improvements, and; support for specific exhibitions.

9.2. The Director of the Whitworth spoke of the NWDA supported Kinderzimmer exhibition in 2009 as ‘the most remarkable’ event that The Whitworth has ever presented’, as ‘absolutely transformative’. The exhibition was sold out; visitor figures for June were 40% up on the previous year. The Director spoke about the risky nature of the project and of the role of the NWDA’s funding in creating a willingness of partners to mount the exhibition.

9.3. The regionally supported Industrial Powerhouse project connects different museums and others sites together and through the Raising the Game project improved presentation and integration / cross marking between sites.

9.4. NWDA support for Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd and for action by Cumbria Tourism to support dedicated work in Carlisle has enabled more ambitious and successful activity, and integrated this with ERDF funded investments in the presentation of Carlisle’s Roman story.

10. The lack of any formal designation below that of World Heritage Sites is a missed opportunity, both for more focused investment and for improved presentation and promotion of the UK’s Heritage assets

10.1. World Heritage Sites represent the pinnacle of successful heritage designation, and have the potential to generate valuable economic benefits. Work undertaken by the Lake District WHS Partnership at the NWDA’s behest and with their support has shown the potential for WHS to generate positive impacts in a number of areas.

10.2. However the lack of any designation below that of World Heritage Status means that there is less clarity of purpose when it comes to investing in heritage sites, and in particular doing so to generate economic benefits from tourism, and it misses the opportunity to better present the UK’s breadth of heritage assets to both domestic and international visitors.

September 2010


[1] Memorandum for the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry into the new Local Enterprise Partnerships , Andrea Nixon , Tate Liverpool , August 2010

[1] Investing in Success, Heritage & the UK Tourism Economy, Feb 20 10 , The Heritage Lottery Fund, and Culture and Heritage Topic Profile, VisitBritain, Feb 2010

[2] Northwest Heritage Tourism report, working paper, NWDA, March 2010

[3] DCMS , August 2010