Cultural Investment “a no-brainer”
City boss praises diversity and makes commitment to reducing inequality.
Speaking at the Birmingham Arts and Culture Summit taking place at the University of Birmingham, Sir Albert reminded delegates of the city’s rich heritage and of how the decline in manufacturing industry during the eighties led to the development of prestige projects such as Symphony Hall. “Tourism has been a mainstay of the city’s economy for decades,” he said. “But other cities have caught up. Birmingham has to look ahead to stay ahead.”
The cultural sector currently provides some 105,000 jobs in Birmingham and the city’s vibrant population, the youngest of any major city in Europe, giving a unique platform in which cutting-edge cultural enterprise can thrive. Sir Albert warned, though, of the work needed to ensure Birmingham can capitalise on this advantage. “We need to take a long, hard look at how the city positions itself. We need credible venues, producers and programmes. We need a brand alignment between past events and those in the future.”
However, the council leader stressed that the city’s cultural programme is not solely concerned with promoting Birmingham to visitors. “Residents want vibrancy and a community of which they can be proud. We want to place Birmingham’s diversity and youth at the heart of our presentation. But the areas where these things are greatest are also parts of the city with the lowest cultural participation. We need to invest in cultural organisations in these areas.”
Acknowledging the problems of funding such programmes in the current climate, Sir Albert nevertheless stressed the importance of culture in aiding one of his administration’s key aims. “We want universal provision for young people and a focused target of support to improve equality.”
Calling on a co-ordinated approach, he added, “We need to build on our strengths, but the city’s cultural sector cannot exist on a number of large, high-profile businesses. We need to make our funding work harder, we need to work with those large businesses, successful individuals and agencies to create a successful Birmingham. The choice isn’t whether or not to have a vibrant, successful cultural scene. That is a no-brainer.”