Check-in delayed for London’s cultural prosperity plan, but work continues – The London Free Press
You want to bring people to London? Make it a cultural hub?
Big music highlights, like hosting the Canadian Country Music Association awards or attracting the 2019 Junos check the box, but other efforts to turn the city into a vibrant centre of arts and culture are moving more slowly.
A 10-year strategy, now at its midpoint, to seize on the economic and social benefits of culture is due for a check at council. But the halfway report, which was originally due in March, has now been pushed back. It’s expected to come to politicians at some point before the end of the year.
What’s causing the delay?
“We’re not top priority at the moment,” said Robin Armistead, city hall’s manager of culture, adding there’s no decision needed from council at this point. “The plan is continuing. This is just a check in.”
The framework set by a cultural prosperity plan is crucial to building the kind of animated, appealing city that politicians and many residents and visitors want to see, Tourism London boss John Winston said.
“It’s important, not only as an economic driver, but for what it does in terms of creating a positive vibe in our community,” he said. “It’s all about enhancing civic pride.”
And the payback isn’t trivial.
An economic impact study done by city hall pegged direct cultural contributions at $540 million a year. That’s close to $1,500 per Londoner. In 2011, the city spent only $60 per capita on culture.
Capitalizing on the economic boon of arts and culture has long been a goal in London, which years ago orchestrated a task force to deliver a report on becoming a creative city – an effort that predated the cultural prosperity plan.
And it’s not just about drawing tourists or new residents to London.
“(The plan) is focused on making London a great place for the people who live here, “Armistead said.
The four-pillar strategy focuses on enhancing cultural programming, taking care of cultural and heritage assets, tapping into economic benefits, and spreading the word about all that culture work to Londoners.
City hall’s music office, and the big musical events and names wooed to London, is an obvious success, Armistead and Winston said.
“It doesn’t happen as quickly as people realize. Music was our experiment in drilling down deep in one area of focus,” Armistead said.
But other cultural avenues aren’t being championed in the same way, at least according to Coun. Michael van Holst, who’s pushed politicians to focus on the film sector in London.
That effort, now dubbed a “screen-based industry strategy” to align with new technologies besides the big screen, has yet to be unveiled to council, and van Holst said every delay is an opportunity lost to siphon jobs and dollars to London.
“We want to make it easier to come here and film and find crew and talent to help them. In this climate, it’s almost a case of ‘if you build it, they will come,’ ” van Holst said. “The more we delay this, the more likely our opportunities will end up somewhere else.”
He draws a link between creating a strong film sector and generating more jobs in London.
Van Holst’s outlook for a film strategy is similar to his hope for the overarching cultural plan.
“There’s a lot here, a lot of people, a lot of assets that we’re just not tying together into one big push, one big consolidation of talent,” he said.