A new plan to put the West of England on the map for national and international success has been unveiled by Metro Mayor Dan Norris today (Wednesday 16 February).
The West of England 'Cultural Plan' showcases the people that make the region great, including artists and games designers; highlights our amazing visitor attractions; and puts a spotlight on why we are the go-to place for investment in the creative industries including in film and TV production.
The Metro Mayor officially launched the 'Cultural Plan' on a visit to Bath Spa University’s School of Art, Film and Media and Bath School of Design.
The 'Cultural Plan' will be supported by members of the West of England Cultural Compact – which is the first of its kind, as the only one in the country with a regional remit. By pulling together players from across the West of England, the Metro Mayor said we have a "tremendously strong offer" promoting creative businesses that contribute just under £2 billion to the regional economy each year.
The plan will be used to promote the West of England, and ensure that everyone locally from film makers, tourist attractions and universities to cafes and councils are singing from the same hymn sheet.
At the launch, the Metro Mayor reflected on how the West of England has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns meant workers in the hospitality, tourism, retail and creative sectors disproportionately lost incomes and jobs. Many of these people were freelancers, excluded from much government support.
The Metro Mayor committed to a relentless focus on the future and said: "In the coming years I am determined we do much more than just survive, but to go on and really thrive - to build back even better and progress far further. I want to ensure more local people than ever before have the opportunities to achieve their full potential and make sure as many people as possible know about the amazing things we do here. Above all, I want to put our truly great West of England region even more firmly on the map for national and international success.
"I am proud that the West of England is attracting international investment from the key players on the planet to benefit both us and them. More than 500 businesses across the South West have been boosted directly from Netflix investment creating 1,000 jobs across the UK.
"The West of England Combined Authority's recent £12m investment in the Bottle Yard Studios sends a strong, confident, and really important message to the world - that our amazing creative sector here in the West of England is thriving and growing apace. I am also supporting small businesses and freelancers with a programme of professional development and paid placements for young people. We are making amazing TV like Outlaws, Tracey Beaker and the wonderful David Attenborough series. We need everyone to know they are made in the West."
Around 800 million people each month watch digital content produced in Bristol and Bath.
The Mayor added: "Those who know the West of England love it, its super creativity, and its can-do attitude to take action and achieve results. This Cultural Plan will ensure even more people fall under the West of England's spell to build upon our already outstanding national and global success."
Professor Sue Rigby, Chair of the West of England Cultural Compact, said: “The Cultural Compact is about helping people in the West enjoy better lives, better lived. It places culture and creativity front and centre of our jobs, skills, wellbeing and investment agenda. Our unique regional design makes us a trailblazer for national policy and an international beacon for this vital work.”
Find out more about the Cultural Plan and the Cultural Compact here.
Phil Gibby, South West Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “This is a truly significant moment for the strategic development of arts and culture in the West of England. Arts Council England highly values its working relationship with the West of England Combined Authority, and welcomes both the publication of the new West of England cultural plan and, under the leadership of Professor Sue Rigby, the formal launch of the Cultural Compact.
“We welcome, in particular, the strong focus on culture at the heart of placemaking, so that the whole of the West of England benefits from these ambitions. The opportunities for talent development and the freelance creative workforce that the plan brings are also immensely valuable. And, of course, we recognise and applaud the substantial financial commitment that the combined authority is making in support of this agenda. Where they lead, other funders and investors are sure to follow. Arts Council England looks forward to partnering closely on many of these projects. We consider ourselves to be proud partners of the West of England Combined Authority in advancing the ambitions that have been outlined today.”
The West of England Cultural Compact is one of 20 established with funding from Arts Council England to Cultural Compacts to support the local cultural sector. It is the only cultural compact with a regional remit, embracing the diversity of our culture and creativity, our residents and businesses, our cities and communities.
A working group of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has developed the prospectus. Membership includes the region’s universities, visitor economy and cultural sectors and councils.
The Cultural Plan has been developed to focus on the role of culture in the region, as a driver for economic success, placemaking, community cohesion and personal wellbeing. It focuses on developing cultural and creative skills; putting culture at the heart of happy and healthy communities; supporting creative freelancers and creative businesses and placing culture at the centre of placemaking and regeneration strategies.
Cultural Plan cover image credit: Artist Luke Jerram’s temporary installation, In Memoriam, on Weston-super-Mare beach, September 2021 © Mark Gray