The Capital’s culture is ‘under threat’
The London Assembly Regeneration Committee has released a report into culture and regeneration in the capital, which urges the Mayor to protect London’s music venues and creative industries. The report outlines that London is home to 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres. 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit, and the creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2%), with almost a third of creative jobs in the UK based in London.
However, The London Assembly believes regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, could put the capital’s cultural offer at risk. The report revealed that between 2007 and 2015, London lost 35% of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 spaces to just 88. It also found that some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019 (30% of the current provision).
Regeneration is intrinsically linked to rising property prices, forcing some communities out of areas their energies helped to revive. The London Assembly Regeneration Committee investigation into culture and regeneration found that there are tensions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents and communities, as people are priced out due to rising rents and “rocketing property costs”.
It also found that certain groups are marginalised, which leads to homogenisation of the type of residents in an area and the culture on offer, and industrial land and buildings are being lost to housing developments. Developers may include live/work space in new developments, but often such schemes are unaffordable and not utilised as workspace.
The report calls on the Mayor to develop a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital, and push for the new London Plan to include an affordable cultural workspace policy that ensures there is affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
The report also urges the Mayor to carry out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors, urgently pilot a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, and last but certainly not least, protect not just iconic venues in London, but also smaller, grassroots venues for their contribution.
“London is globally-renowned as a city of culture. From grassroots music venues in Tottenham to small theatres in Richmond, it is diverse, unique and spread right across London,” commented Navin Shah AM, chair of the Regeneration Committee.
“Culture has the power to regenerate places, but due to rising land values, running costs and reduced public funding, cultural venues and communities are increasingly threatened. Regeneration must also protect and deliver culture. The Mayor has a key role to play but we also need to make sure that local communities truly lie at the heart of all cultural regeneration projects.”