Cities and places are founded on heritage, traditions and industries. Creative and artistic activity helps to define, promote and maintain a spirit of place within communities and instil a sense of pride in where we live. This spirit and sense of character help to drive investment, whether that be capital investment or FDI. Creativity and the arts encourage people to live in and businesses to move to areas, they create better a better sense of place, and more attractive propositions full of character and culture.
Investment in the Creative Sector
Cultural and creative sectors themselves are a significant source of jobs and income, bringing prosperity to many and also, generating important spillovers to the wider economy. When a place’s cultural heritage is celebrated, creative people and industries are more likely to move in, facilitating investment.
In a business sense, Manchester’s cultural sector is growing. It’s already recognised as one of Europe’s largest creative, digital and technology clusters with more than 10,000 businesses including the BBC, Brown Bag Films, Mediacom and Dentsu Aegis calling the city-region home. The region now has an outstanding reputation for film and tv production, animation, digital and design. It has a wealth of specialist-creative talent that allows creative and media businesses to thrive.
Salford’s MediaCityUK boasts a huge success story for the region’s creative and digital investment, investment in the arts is allowing other towns and boroughs to follow suit. Bolton is becoming a renowned filming location, attracting big Hollywood hitters. The town is investing £7.24m in the refurbishment of the council-owned Wellsprings office building to create an innovation hub for digital and creative industries which will be at the heart of the town’s regeneration masterplan. Stockport too received £2.63m last year from DCMS to deliver a creative campus in the town centre, transforming it into a new digital arts neighbourhood. Providing the physical infrastructure and specialist resources needed to grow the next generation of creative and digital businesses while also working with the community to encourage engagement in culture.
The Role of Culture in Placemaking
However, the benefits of using arts and culture to tap into a place’s unique character extend beyond the creative sector. Combining culture, placemaking and community building stimulates local economies and leads to increased innovation, cultural diversity, and civic engagement. Across sectors, today’s leaders and policymakers are increasingly recognising how culture-based placemaking initiatives can help to support the development of transportation, housing, employment, health care, environmental sustainability, and education by using the arts to strengthen communities and create a fairer, more prosperous city-region for all.
Culture helps to build strong, healthy, and resilient places, strengthening communities and driving social change. It creates vibrant places to live for people of all ages, whether they’re recent graduates or raising a family, encouraging gentrification and investment into areas.
Traditionally, it was thought that culture follows from economic development with affluent cities having more to spend on art galleries, museums and cultural spaces, yet we’re now learning that redevelopment follows culture. Creativity fuels value and when a vast number of people want to live in a town or city, investment must follow.
The arts have always played a central role in the life of our cities and communities, with Manchester city centre being a prime example, and so it’s becoming clear that the arts need to be a central component in future planning discussions as well further investment negotiations.
Manchester’s cultural sector
2023 is set to be a huge year for Manchester’s cultural sector, with the city and wider city region ready to reaffirm its place on the global cultural map.
Manchester has always been renowned for its contribution to popular culture, from genre-defining bands to ground-breaking literary talent. It’s already a UNESCO City of Literature and is celebrated for having a dynamic art and music scene. However, with the opening of Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International this year and Co-Op live next spring, Manchester is about to become a cultural powerhouse once again, attracting some of the biggest international names in art, music, dance and other creative fields. The return of the Manchester International Festival (MIF) this month has already seen global names in the world of art like Yayoi Kusama exhibiting and creating work across the city, showing the calibre of creativity Manchester can produce when it puts culture at the fore. The home of Factory International and MIF, Aviva Studios is set to be a game-changer for the city-centre, the state-of-the-art arts space will help engage communities with the arts, provide new opportunities for careers in the creative sector and fuel Manchester’s reputation as a creative city across the globe.
Manchester city centre is a prime example of culture fuelling growth, after seeing 20,000 people move into the city centre in the past decade, increasing Manchester’s population by twice the average UK growth rate. Economic forecasts indicate the next decade will see continued growth for the city, with 65,000 extra jobs. Increasing total city centre employment to 315,000 by 2040. We would be naïve to think that Manchester’s strong sense of self didn’t have some involvement in making it a popular destination to live, work and invest in. Manchester is a city very in tune with its industrial heritage and cultural impact, it’s bold and brash in its messaging in a way that makes people and businesses not only stop and listen but respect the city’s offering.
Making our towns cultural hotspots
However now, outside of the city centre, the region’s towns too are being recognised for their cultural importance. Not only are these places able to offer an affordable lifestyle just minutes away from the vibrancy of Manchester’s cultural scene, but these towns are celebrating their heritage and culture while strengthening their sense of community.
For example, Stockport has now been named Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture for 2023, with a £50,000 investment to support arts and creativity in the borough through events and activities. Rochdale too has recently received £8.5m funding from Arts Council England to invest in arts and culture over the next three years, which will be used to create a new visual arts-led creative hub as well as a cultural district in the town centre.
In Greater Manchester, this renewed focus on culture has the potential to be transformative for our people and places. Although not a standalone factor for investment, cultural capital plays a huge role in the development of urban neighbourhoods and the creation of jobs. It should never be an add-on but instead is proven to be a key contributor to urban economic growth alongside transport links, health and wellbeing, housing, green spaces and employment. Culture will make our towns and spaces more attractive to businesses, residents and investors.
During a year that will reaffirm Greater Manchester’s international standing as a cultural hotspot, investment in both our city centre and town’s cultural offerings provide an exciting platform for future development, investment and prosperity. From further investment into the creative sector to creating in-demand places to live with an enviable lifestyle, Greater Manchester’s cultural offering is about to change the face of the region. It’s exciting to think how our towns will develop over the twelve months as culture becomes Manchester’s lifeblood once again.