‘Bring arts into London’s high streets for post-Covid recovery’

Creative businesses should take over unused office and retail space to help the City of London recover from the “cultural catastrophe" of the pandemic closedown, a report for the Lord Mayor published today recommends.

The report, Culture and Commerce: Fuelling Creative Renewal by the culture and commerce taskforce set up last October by Lord Mayor William Russell and chaired by him to recommend ways of recovering from the calamity that has hit London, wants the results of action on its blueprint to be evident by the end of this year.

It calls for the creative sector and commerce to work closely together to establish a “brokerage model” that supports owners, occupiers and employers to make unused office and retail space available for creative businesses. It also calls for a dedicated forum to give freelancers a voice in planning the future of the creative sector.

Main image shows Acceleration by Yvonne Courtney, specially commissioned for the report

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact upon the capital’s cultural and creative sectors, and we make no apology for describing the situation as a ‘cultural catastrophe’” Alderman Russell said at the report's launch today. “But this blueprint for a deeper relationship between the creative and commercial sectors will help boost London’s economic growth and places the capital’s powerhouse creative sector as a leading force in the economic recovery from coronavirus. 

“It is critical for culture and commerce to work together and harness London’s creative energy to retain its position as the best city in the world in which to live, work, learn, and invest. I call upon culture, civic, and commercial organisations across London to consider what the Taskforce is proposing, with a view to implementing as many recommendations as they are able to, in order to help accelerate the recovery.”

The report says that the pandemic has caused an “epic shift” in how people behave, including the normalisation of working from home, reluctance to travel into city centres, a reappraisal of priorities and an increased use of local amenities.

It shows that the UK’s creative industries are “on the brink of devastation”. Projections in August 2020 estimated that the creative sectors would be hit twice as hard as the wider economy in 2020, with a gross value added (GVA) shortfall of £29 billion and more than half of that shortfall is expected to be in London with a £14.8bn GVA drop. Creative sub sectors were expected to lose more than half their revenue and over half of their workforce, with 122,000 permanent creative workers being made redundant. Another 82,000 creative industries workers in the South East are projected to lose their jobs.  In London in the six months following the beginning of lockdown there was a 30% collapse in jobs in music, performing and visual arts, with 55,000 job losses in music alone.

The report urges creative, civic, and commercial organisations to act urgently to use creativity to bring people back to London as soon as social distancing restrictions allow, by repurposing public and commercial spaces to use by artists and creatives; sharing knowledge and skills to attract and nurture global talent and build international connections post-Covid and post-Brexit; to develop creative hubs for cross-sector innovation.

“London’s world-leading creative sector helps secure its position as one of the best international cities in which to live, work, visit and invest” the report says. “The creative sector has enormous potential to play a critical role in London’s recovery - reanimating our spaces in unique ways that attract people back, equipping people with the skills needed for employment and innovation, and building the connections required internationally for London to remain a global hub for commerce and culture."



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