How is the West Midlands cultural sector performing during the recession?

Ironbridge with views of Telford townEconomic research launched in March 2009 by the West Midlands Cultural Observatory has helped to shed light on how the region’s cultural and creative sector is performing during the current economic downturn — an area which has not been the subject of sustained research in the past.

The economic snapshot paper (Word, 306KB) includes the results of a small scale survey which explores how levels of visitors and revenue have been affected in cultural venues such as museums, arts centres and visitor attractions.

The paper also highlights data on bedspace occupancy, employment vacancies and gives a round up of relevant media coverage, all of which are suggestive of trends currently affecting cultural organisations and firms.

This paper has found that, in common with other sectors of the economy, the effects of the recession are already evident in the region’s cultural sector.

While (often fairly large) fluctuations in visitor numbers and revenue are in some ways part-and-parcel of being a cultural sector organisation, some trends are emerging which seem to suggest patterns of change that are unusual.

For example, most sources agree that performing arts organisations, manufacturing companies, architectural firms and ‘higher end’ accommodation organisations such as hotels are more vulnerable to (and feeling the effects of) the economic downturn to a greater degree than free or cheap attractions such as museums and cinemas.

Peter Mandelson speaking at West Midlands TaskforceThe findings of the research will be communicated to the newly formed West Midlands Taskforce (led by Advantage West Midlands), which brings together leaders from government, business, regional agencies, local authorities and trade unions, to monitor and influence how the region responds to the changing global economic picture.

We would welcome your comments on this research. Is it helpful? Is there anything else you would be interested to know?

This research will be repeated on a quarterly basis, with the next snapshot due out in April 2009. In future, if you would like to receive the snapshot directly and/or would be willing to participate in the research, contact Lauren at or call 0121 631 5705.

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