Thursday, 16 October 2014

The many virtues of arts and culture


Arts and culture are integral to what makes a city worth living in. A thriving cultural scene helps to attract and retain residents, and contributes to our sense of community. The arts provide entertainment for weekends and evenings. They give us something to share with our families and friends and encourage us to look at the world in new ways.

What many people don't realize is that arts and culture also contribute greatly to our economy. The arts strengthen and support local merchants, and drive tourism. They also spark creativity and innovation across all sectors.

London's Cultural Profile Report, published in 2013, estimates that the cultural sector contributes $540M per year to London’s economy. In 2011, the city spent $60 per capita on arts and culture, while the cultural sector contributed $1 475 per capita to the city's economy. Obviously this is not an area the city can ignore, not even those who claim to focus exclusively on jobs and economic growth.

At Grosvenor Lodge during Doors Open London & Culture Days

It's clear to me as someone born and raised in London, and who continues to enjoy living here, that we have incredible offerings in this area. The Palace Theatre’s recent production of Death of a Salesman, as well as Doors Open London have reminded me of that fact recently (and I'm sure the Lost Soul Stroll will do the same later this month).

How do we strengthen and promote London's talent, and keep it well connected with other sectors in the city? London's Cultural Prosperity Plan, published together with the profile report mentioned above, gives a few strategic directions on that front:
  • Strengthen the economic growth of culture
  • Support cultural programming
  • Leverage London’s cultural assets
  • Celebrate and promote culture

We also need the right facilities for arts and culture in London. New facilities should accommodate many different artistic offerings, whether they are choirs or theatre, comedy or ballets. There should be room for all sizes of art shows, whether a small collection of visual art pieces or a visiting international act. When the John Labatt Centre opened in 2002, it was built with the multiple purposes of hosting hockey and other sporting events, as well as musical acts and a multitude of other events that have been held there. Why not do the same with any new arts venues?

The Cultural Prosperity Plan is a vision of London as “a culturally rich city that uses creativity of its citizens to make a place that will prosper in a new economic age”. As your councillor, I will work to implement this plan with a focus on leveraging London's existing assets. If this is done well, the other strategies will fall into place more easily.

In the meantime, I'll look forward to seeing you at our performances, museums, and galleries!