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.

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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.

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Uncertainty over the future of regional cultural research

Chair of the Cultural Research & Intelligence Group and Chief Executive of Museums, Libraries & Archives (MLA) in the West Midlands, Jon Finch provides some insight into the current situation for regional cultural research:

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Ethnicity and social class: most influential factors in West Midlands’ cultural participation

According to the Regional Lifestyle Survey, of all demographic factors, residents’ ethnicity and social class best predict what they choose to do with their leisure time and how much importance they attach to local cultural facilities.

The Survey, published by the West Midlands Regional Observatory in 2005, used a region-wide postal questionnaire to explore a range of lifestyle-related issues with residents, including their level of participation in cultural pursuits.

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Cultural Research and Intelligence Network newsletter: call for information

Thumbnail of CRAIN newsletter

The next Cultural Research & Intelligence Network (CRAIN) newsletter is due out in October 2008.

If you have any information on recent research and intelligence in the arts, media, heritage, sports, play and/or tourism fields that you would like to share with the 120+ CRAIN members across the West Midlands region, please forward them to me (lauren.amery@wmro.org) by Friday 17th October 2008.

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Changes to regional cultural co-ordination

Arts Minister, Margaret Hodge has announced the closure of the Regional Cultural Consortiums by March 2009.

Her intention is that in their place, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s four key agencies in the regions – Arts Council England, Sport England, English Heritage and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council – will have a duty to work together to jointly deliver a core set of shared priorities across the culture and sport agenda.

In terms of regional cultural research, this change in structure may have implications for the future of the West Midlands Cultural Observatory. In the meantime, the Cultural Research Analyst post that supports this initiative is currently funded until March 2009 and there is a strong commitment to joined-up cultural research by regional cultural agencies.

It would be interesting to know your thoughts on this topic. For example, you may have a view on which elements of regional cultural research should, if possible, be retained under the new structure?

Forthcoming research from the West Midlands Cultural Observatory

You may be interested to know about research currently being conducted at the West Midlands Cultural Observatory.

Over the next year, we will be producing three evidence papers which draw together what we know about the impact of culture on ‘prosperity’, ‘people’ and ‘place’ in the West Midlands. Not only will this help to inform regional policy, the aim is that the papers will also provide a useful reference tool for everyone in the sector needing to ‘make the case’ for culture.

The first paper to be developed will look at the economic impact of culture, building on Culture West Midland’s Growing the Cultural Economy in the West Midlands (2007) report. The 2007 study estimated that the region’s cultural sector accounts for:

  • 12.5% of the region’s Gross Value Added (from a total turnover of £18 billion p/a)
  • 10.1% of the region’s employment
  • 14.5% of businesses in the region

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