Theatres Trust responds to Cultural Cities Enquiry report

Theatres Trusts welcomes today’s Cultural Cities Enquiry report. The report explores the vital question of how we continue to invest in culture in our towns and cities in a challenging economic environment. 

It states loud and clear that our cultural buildings are an important part of placemaking but also that the availability and affordability of space for cultural performance and production are central concerns for many cultural organisations. To address this, it suggests ways in which we might leverage much needed additional investment as well as new ways in which we might manage our cultural assets more effectively to promote long-term viability. 

Grayson Perry once said, ‘Artists are the stormtroopers of gentrification’ and the report rightly identifies the dual challenge inherent in this statement: how do we capture and reinvest the additional value that theatres and cultural buildings add to a city while ensuring that rising land values don’t push artists out of our city centres and threaten the future of theatres through rising rents and rates and the ‘reuse value’ of theatres as residential or commercial spaces?

The report proposes three innovative ideas to address this question:

  1. ‘City Culture Compacts’
    Cultural and community leaders, local authorities, businesses and education bodies co-design and deliver a vision for culture for a city, ensuring cultural activity is prioritised in spatial plans and driving alignment through planning policy, licensing and business rates.
  2. ‘BIDS+’ model
    Businesses to put additional resources into culture through Business Improvement District bodies in exchange for a share of additional government tax returns from the consequent regeneration of the area to be reinvested into culture locally.
  3. Portfolio asset management model
    Exploring new ways for private, public and third sector building owners and operators to promote collective management of cultural buildings to generate more revenue and ensure longer term sustainability.

Although there is much detail to be worked out as to how these approaches will support investment in theatres and wider cultural infrastructure, Theatres Trust welcomes these exciting proposals.  We will continue to engage with the various bodies behind the report and will contribute our experience of working with theatres, local authorities, developers and other stakeholders to secure the future of our theatres.

You can download the full report on the Core Cities website.

Cover image: Southampton NST City community celebration, by Luke MacGregor