Business leaders embrace arts economy to grow Leeds region

The impact on the Yorkshire economy of sculpture and cycling, as well as more conventional financial measures, must inform future decisions on how to drive growth, business leaders declared yesterday.

The Tour de Yorkshire 2019 at Masham
The Tour de Yorkshire 2019 at Masham

The potential value from cultural and heritage attractions such as the Tour de Yorkshire and the restored Halifax Piece Hall should be “integrated” into other economic planning as a key to improving wealth and wellbeing across the region, they said.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, which works with businesses and local authorities across the county, is behind the new “cultural framework” which it says will mine as much revenue as possible from a sector estimated to be worth £9bn a year to the region’s economy.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

It says its blueprint is designed to be used by public bodies to make sure that culture is considered when other activities are being planned.

The Piece Hall, Halifax.

Roger Marsh, the business advisor who chairs the City Region partnership and the government-funded “NP11” board of local enterprise partnerships, said he had “seen first hand” the positive impact of the region’s cultural assets through having chaired the Piece Hall Trust.

Its restoration had been “an incredible investment, adding £26m to the local economy since it reopened in 2017 and kick-starting wider regeneration,” he said.

The former cloth trading hall, the only remaining one of its type, is said to have generated £7m a year since its reopening, through employment, events and retail activity at the site. Every £1 spent on operating the venue returns £5.30 to the local economy, the City Region partnership said.

“Our cultural and historical assets, heritage, parks and countryside, and sporting and major events are incredibly important to Leeds City Region. They underpin our leisure and tourism economy as well as bringing people together, creating a shared sense of pride in our region and contributing to the excellent quality of life that makes it so attractive to live and work here,” Mr Marsh added,

The blueprint singles out The Hepworth Wakefield, which opened in 2011 and was named was named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2017, among the cultural assets to have made an impact economically.

Last year, The Hepworth was among the institutions behind the first Yorkshire Sculpture International, a summer-long arts festival in Leeds and Wakefield, which attracted 1.5m visitors to the area – more than half of them from outside the region.

The new strategy also points to the success of the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, which it says generated tourism that boosted the region’s economy by £60m. The race has drawn around 2m spectators along its route.

Pete Massey, director for Arts Council England in Yorkshire, said the recognition that arts, culture, heritage and sport could “make the fullest contribution possible to the economic and social wellbeing” of the region was “brilliant”.

He added: “Our cultural infrastructure sustains and grows our places. Arts and culture, heritage, sport and libraries create places that help individuals flourish, and that bring communities together.”