Acknowledging the cross-sector importance of culture

Cover of State of the Region Report 2008October has been an important month for colleagues at the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Not only was the State of the Region Report 2008 launched, along with the Regional Integrated Economic Assessment, the Observatory held its annual conference, attracting a good cross-section of the region’s key thinkers and policy-makers. In all three cases, the importance of culture, particularly to the region’s economy, was highlighted.

At the annual conference, culture quite literally took centre stage at points. The expert panel spent considerable time responding to a question associated with the perception and reputation of the West Midlands, emphasising the importance of a combined (cross-county) creative ‘offer’ as a means of realising the potential of the region’s creative industries.

The power of Stratford upon Avon to pull overseas visitors to the region was also highlighted by Councillor Roger Phillips.

Left to right: Mike Beasley, Professor Julia King, Cllr. Roger Phillips, Mike Barnes, Jonnie Turpie, Sarabjeet Soar

In the State of the Region Report 2008 (PDF, 1.37MB), culture is given a structural prominence in that it’s the first issue of many to be addressed by the report.

The report stresses the importance of the Cultural Observatory‘s work in extending knowledge about the region’s cultural sector, along with the sizeable economic contribution of the sector.

In the Regional Integrated Economic Assessment, one of the five drivers of productivity (identified by the Treasury) is innovation, which covers a wide-range of activities, including developments in design and marketing; activities rooted in the cultural sector. For a region whose businesses have been less productive than average in recent times, an increase in levels of innovation within West Midlands’ businesses is likely to be encouraged over the coming months and years. Hopefully, techniques currently being developed by NESTA to benchmark and measure innovation will:

  1. Enable the influence of the cultural sector to be isolated
  2. Enable regional analyses

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