Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Arts worth "millions" to local Lancaster economy



Lancaster’s arts sector is taking centrestage in the local economy, boosting it by £50 million annually, a new report reveals.

This £50 million is generated across Lancaster district by 600 businesses and organisations which are directly or indirectly involved in the arts and cultural sector, supporting between 1,400 and 2,400 jobs.

And the report says there are significant opportunities to increase the benefit of the local arts sector despite uncertainty over the future of government funding as cuts to councils, who finance many activities, from The Dukes to Spotlight Club, begin to bite.

Lancaster Arts Partnership commissioned the comprehensive report, titled The Economic Value of Arts Activity in the district of Lancaster, which captures the scale and economic value of arts activity in the district over the past 30 years and was compiled over nine months.

Funded by orgainisations such as the Northwest Regional Development Agency, Lancashire County Council and Arts Council England NorthWest, its findings provide evidence for funders faced with difficult decisions and suggest ways in which the arts can further improve their contribution to the economy.

The report primarily focused on seven member organisations of the LAP and showed that the direct and indirect activities of these generated £7.5 million annually, through their role as employers, purchasers of goods and services and their audiences, together supported 200 jobs. The report also found that these arts organisations alone produced £800,000 of marketing/promotion value through media coverage outside the district and provided more than 20,000 separate activities for young people each year.

Sleeping Beauty at The Dukes
Arts bring in visitors

Audience research showed that of visitors attending arts events in the district, such as The Dukes plays or concerts at Lancaster University and LitFest events at the Storey, 85 per cent said it was the event itself which was the prime reason for their visit.

According to the report, LAP offers good value for money for its core funders – the Arts Council England, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council – who together provided £1,651,155 of funding in 2009/10.

For every £1 of core revenue investment received, the seven LAP organisations in this study deliver £5.19 in economic benefit compared to a national average of £2.80.

The report included the results of a survey of 1220 arts attenders. More than 80 per cent agreed or agreed strongly that the arts are 'a very important part of my quality of life'; 71 per cent thought that the arts 'enhance the quality of life in Lancaster District'; and just under 50 per cent thought that ‘the range of arts activities in Lancaster District differentiates it as a place to live’.

Of people living within 30 minutes drive from central Lancaster, the most popular attended activities include the cinema, any performance in a theatre and pop/rock.

60% of those surveyed thought the level of arts funding in the district should be increased.
Only 2% thought it should be decreased.

Local writer and musician Mollie Baxter,
performing at the Storey as part of
Spotlight Club
"Nationally recognised" local arts businesses and organisations

Formed in 2009, LAP is chaired by Dukes director, Joe Sumsion, and aims to champion and promote strategic development, strive for excellence and innovation in arts activities, and to establish a strong lobbying voice for the arts in Lancaster. The partner companies are The Dukes, Storey Gallery, Litfest, More Music, Ludus Dance, Live at LICA (Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts), folly, and Green Close Studios.

“Long-term investment in a small cluster of excellent arts organisations has paid off," argues Joe Sumsion, Chair of Lancaster Arts Partnership.

"The Lancaster and Morecambe district has become nationally recognised for arts and culture and it’s no coincidence that there are now so many other artists and arts businesses making such a strong contribution to the local economy.”

The range of over 600 arts businesses and organisations in the district is very varied, including some 114 visual artists, 29 potters and glass or ceramic artists, 19 dance schools or classes, 13 entertainment and stand-up artists (including a burlesque artist), 53 live music venues, 43 bands, 31 musicians, 18 professional actors, 18 theatrical companies, 10 digital arts companies, including film studios and production companies.

Creative talent provides "significant impact"

“The contribution of the arts and art-related organisations to the region’s economy cannot be underestimated," feels Nick Brooks-Sykes, Director of Tourism at NWDA,who part-funded the study with a £30,000 grant. "In the past 11 years, the NWDA has recognised the huge importance of this sector to our visitor economy and maximised opportunities to unlock investment.

“England’s Northwest is well known for its creative talents and has made a significant impact on the world of arts and culture," he added. "The report demonstrates that with sound investment and strong partnership working, the arts sector makes a significant contribution to the economy of Lancaster, providing jobs for local people, boosting the quality of life for residents and encouraging more visitors to the area.”

Lancaster district is the third largest recipient of funding from Arts Council England NW, behind Manchester and Liverpool. This recognises its excellence and innovation, particularly in dance, digital media, visual arts and live performance.

LAP now hope that there will be more recognition of the value of the arts sector in Lancaster, especially as the report has identified opportunities for both local businesses and for the image of Lancaster generally. Its publication is also timely as Councils consider local arts funding, with many waiting anxiously to hear if they will get their public financing renewed in the coming year.

These opportunities include: more local events and festivals by involving arts providers, promoting Lancaster’s talent pool of arts businesses beyond the district, working with the local hospitality trade to encourage audiences to stay over in the district when attending events, and promoting live arts as having as much to offer Lancaster’s cultural reputation as its built heritage.

• For further information and to view the report go to www.lancasterartspartners.org

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