Culture will help power London’s recovery

The creative schemes launched this week by the City Corporation illustrate how important culture is to the recovery in London. Far from being something that can tick a cultural box for businesses, or simply be a pleasant attraction for visitors, increasingly cultural activities are entwined with the success and vibrancy of an area.

Businesses are embracing arts and culture like never before; recognising how they help to attract and retain the best talent, contribute significantly to a location and can ultimately add to their bottom line. I have been involved in articulating how we can bring culture and business closer together through the City’s Culture and Commerce Taskforce, and the various BIDs and partnerships I lead have been pioneering some of the thinking that is being rolled out by the City.

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Our recent innovative partnership with the University of Arts London, enabled this year’s Graduate Showcase to ‘take over’ a number of retail units and construction hoardings in the City of London and other key locations in central London. More than 100 students from the BA Costume for Theatre and Screen, BA Production Arts for Screen and BA Theatre Design courses have their final degree pieces exhibited in 30 sites across the City of London (in the EC Partnerships tower cluster area and Cheapside) and also in the Northbank (mainly in sites along the Strand).

Work on display includes full costumes for productions such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wicked and Woman in Black, realistic and intricate special effects models, set design maquettes and props and boards detailing the creative process, all highlighting the talents of the students.

The project activates some of the central London spaces now vacant as a result of the COVID pandemic, providing an attractive welcome for visitors and workers as they start to return to London. It also gives the students a high-profile and easily accessible platform to showcase their skills and expertise.

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This project is just the start for us and we are eager to collaborate more with progressive landlords who can see the value in animating empty units on a temporary basis. We are also keen to continue engaging with Government on the issue – the economic recovery will be long and gradual and as a city we need to find a sustainable solution to manage the empty units on our high streets in the short to medium term. Business rate relief is crucial, for example, if we want to be able to deliver creative solutions.

I know from my work across London that collective action is the key to delivering the best outcomes. The public and private sectors can achieve mutual benefits when they come together and I am excited to see what great initiatives will emerge when culture sits at the heart of this collaboration.