Investment in culture urged to drive area’s economic recovery

IMPROVED broadband access, a public arts strategy and a dedicated arts venue in Beverley are among the developments needed to maximise the cultural potential of the East Riding, a report says.

The East Riding Cultural Strategy 2011-15 will be unveiled at Beverley Festival today and outlines how important cultural activity is to the social and economic wellbeing of the region.

Encompassing areas such as tourism, events, creative industries, cultural learning and communication, the document highlights the assets and activities the area can be proud of, where it can improve, and argues that culture can help drive its economic recovery.

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Writing in the foreword, East Riding Council’s portfolio holder for cultural services Jane Evison said: “Against a gloomy economic sky, our theatres, art galleries, comedy clubs, churches, museums, stately homes and gardens are working hard to keep their lights on and their doors and gates open.

“As the economy is beginning to move again the cultural sector is ready, willing and able to contribute to the upturn. Indeed, our confidence and self-belief can help lead the way and hopefully be a basis for renewal here in the East Riding.

“This strategy is meant to be both inspirational and aspirational. In the current climate it is unrealistic to expect that everything we aspire to will be achieved, at least not as quickly as we might hope.

“However, by its very nature, the cultural sector is creative and forward looking and our drive and enthusiasm will help us through these trying times.”

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She adds: “This strategy demonstrates how valuable culture is to the East Riding, not only in and of itself, but it also shows how culture contributes to achieving broader benefits, including improved health, reduced crime, inspired learning and opportunities for employment.”

One initiative the authors would like to see is a creative industries “expo” at Bridlington Spa to showcase enterprises and promote opportunities, and hold a similar event at Humber Business Week.

A total of 4,000 jobs are supported by creative industries in the East Riding.

But the issue of better broadband services – some areas in the rural East Riding do not even have this high speed internet connection – is again highlighted as a pressing need.

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The report notes the “inadequate infrastructure” and mobile phone coverage in parts of the East Riding, and also “high levels of digital exclusion”.

It says work should be done with Hull-based telecoms firm KC and other businesses to remedy this situation.

The report also urges those working within the sector to adopt a new approach to get a better deal when applying for grants and other support.

This is against a background of severe arts funding cuts at national level, as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is facing a 25 per cent reduction to its budget over the next four years, and the Arts Council of England a near 30 per cent cut over the same period.

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The report said: “In these challenging times the East Riding’s creative and cultural community will have to forge new and different ways of working.

“Groundbreaking research has been conducted that can help the sector deal with the challenges. In particular, a major shift from the ‘subsidy mindset’ to ‘investment mindset’ has been proposed.

“To effect this transition, practitioners and providers are being advised to identify their core assets – tangible and intangible – and consider how these can be developed and used as leverage.”

The strategy will be officially launched by the East Riding Cultural Partnership in the Wold Top marquee in the grounds of Beverley Leisure Centre from 5pm.

Partnership chairman Hilary Saynor said: “As a group we feel we have a document that will unite the cultural community and help us work together to strengthen the East Riding’s cultural offer.”