United Kingdom: Use culture to re-invent struggling seaside towns, says House of Lords Report
A Lords Committee heard that Thanet has seen 84% growth in creative businesses between 2013 and 2016, following a long-term programme to support arts and culture.
Investments in cultural projects and infrastructure will be essential to reviving struggling seaside towns, according to a new House of Lords report.
Peers say that landmark arts interventions, such as the opening of Turner Contemporary in Margate, can help areas “re-invent themselves” and diversify their economies.
They also call for big ticket touring shows to visit resort theatres, encouraging more domestic tourism and bringing underused venues back to life.
“Places like Brighton and Bournemouth have shown that ‘the seaside’ can successfully reinvent itself,” commented Lord Bassam of Brighton, the Chairman of the Lords Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities, which produced the report. “The Committee is confident that if our recommendations are pursued, seaside towns can once again become prosperous and desirable places to live in and visit.”
House of Lords Report
The Committee has spent just under a year collecting oral and written evidence from Government Ministers, local authorities, funders and relevant stakeholders.
It concludes that seaside towns have been neglected “for too long” and are suffering from issues rooted in the decline of core industries – domestic tourism, fishing, shipbuilding and port activity – as well as from their location ‘at the end of the line’.
“A single solution to their economic and social challenges doesn’t exist,” Lord Bassam added. “What is needed is a package of strategic initiatives and interventions where national and local government work together to address issues such as transport, housing, post-school education and high-speed broadband.”
Analysing the changing fortunes of areas such as Brighton, which the authors conclude is probably the UK’s most successful seaside community -- but “was not always that way, certainly not in the 1970s and early ‘80s” -- they say the arts give Brighton a “USP” as a “culture city with creative businesses”.
Similarly, they note that the opening of the Turner Contemporary has boosted local regeneration in Margate. Thanet District Council told the committee that there had been “84% growth” in creative businesses in the area between 2013 and 2016, following the long-term programme ‘Margate Arts, Creativity and Heritage’.
“The creative industries have a clear role in supporting seaside towns to diversify their economies and enhance their local cultural assets,” the report adds. “Capital investment must be made in the context of its impact on the place generally and be monitored and evaluated accordingly.
“It is vital that evaluation processes for grant funding for heritage and arts projects address issues relating to place-based approaches to regeneration, so as to ensure that public funds are used prudently, and that best practice can be understood and shared”.
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