Portsmouth was a fitting place to consider how to maximise
cultural and sporting assets to create places where people want to live, visit
and work.The Mary Rose Museum illustrated the 35 year journey necessary to
preserve the iconic ship, create a heritage attraction and develop an
educational facility. Portsmouth FC, rising out of the ashes of administration,
showed how it was possible to rebuild an organisation through community
ownership but also the many challenges that came with it. An evening in the Spinnaker
Tower demonstrated how flagship iconic buildings can drive tourism and provide
local employment, given the time and willingness to embrace risk. Together,
they show how you need a long-term plan and a diverse and well-supported offer
to drive economic and social change in a locality.
Sir Peter put on an engaging show, illustrating the strong
funding partnership between Arts Council and local authorities even in tough
times. The challenge which he lay down was for proactive joint effort between
these partners to spread awareness in Whitehall and Westminster of the
potential of culture to help meet wider social objectives. He spoke about the
need for “holistic public investment in the arts” which could maximise this
opportunity. It will be interesting to see how the Council members will respond
to this call to action. He also spoke about a fresh report called “Wider
Benefits of Arts and Culture to Society” which will come out this week.
Tourism featured heavily across the conference. An upbeat
speech from Lady Cobham addressed the ways in which Visit England was working
to promote and work with local areas to maximise the benefits that tourism
brings. She pointed out that despite new markets opening up internationally
from places such as China, visitors from the United States still made up the
largest share of international visitors.
Another seminar picked up the tourism thread, looking at the
differing experiences in York and West Oxfordshire. Visit York and local
businesses are apparently forming a new company to boost its profile and brand
internationally, using the ‘I Amsterdam’
model. It was interesting to note that a real concern from local government
colleagues was how to measure the impact of their investment in tourism.
Reflecting the post-London 2012 world we are in, there was
also plenty of talk across the conference on how to use national commemorations
or events to drive culture, heritage and tourism work. HLF talked about its
work to support First
World War commemoration activity, while the celebrations to mark the 800
years of the Magna Carta were also mentioned.
Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were a focus of workshop conversation that
flowed into the wider conference discussion. The consensus seemed to be that
they were only patchily engaged with the creative industries, nor they didn’t
seem to be accessible to local authorities. However, Maria Miller appeared not
to agree and felt that LEPs were serious about the creative economy.
The role of libraries featured in another session, looking
at their role in terms of welfare reform and in particular the role they could
play in helping people adapt to policies such as universal credit. Janene Cox,
President of Society of Chief Librarians, described the important work underway
that libraries play in helping fill the gaps in computer access and IT skills
for the 8 million people in the UK who lack access to the internet.
All in all, a diverse discussion took place across the
conference on unlocking the potential of local assets in difficult times. A
strong theme emerged: public sector investment needs more than ever to be
backed with good evidence to reassure decision-makers that the money is being
If you have any questions about the conference email me at or leave a comment below and
I will do my best to answer them!
A slightly extended version of this blog can also be found
at the BOP Consulting website here.
You can also follow Gregg on Twitter – @Gregg_H
You may also be interested in Connected
London, A New Direction’s local government and place-based partnerships and