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This section covers cultural sectors associated with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and includes creative sector, museums and galleries, libraries and archives, heritage and sports as well as tourism because of the inter-relationship between the region’s cultural and visitor economies.

Clearly, all these activities overlap with other policy areas covered in other chapters, in particular economy, labour market, housing, planning and social and welfare. Therefore an integrated approach is taken to commentary on the changing state of culture in South West England.

During 2010/11, financial crisis and public sector reforms were major influences on culture in the region and are too many to report here. However, analysis of quantitative and qualitative research reveals several key themes. Namely, the cultural and creative economy, culture and sport engagement; London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Big Society. These four key themes are explored, first in terms of ‘what we know’, followed by a policy and institutional context, and finally some predictions based on key data and the author’s knowledge of the region’s cultural sectors.


Cultural and creative economy

Research supports the importance of cultural sectors to economic growth and social well-being at national and local level. Over the past twenty years, the United Kingdom (UK) has established an international reputation for creativity and innovation, cultural heritage and quality of life. In the South West, the region’s cultural and creative economy is a source of enterprise, employment and enjoyment. Of four DCMS cultural sectors (creative, heritage, museums galleries libraries and archives, sport), the creative sector remains the strongest with turnovers increasing by 36% between 2005 and 2009 compared to an 11% average increase in England (CASE, May 2011). Latest DCMS estimates show the number of creative businesses in the South West, as a proportion of all UK creative enterprises, remains unchanged at 7.9% (DCMS, December 2011). A breakdown of creative enterprises by type and region is shown in Figure 11.1.

Creative Enterprises by Region 2011    
Sector South West UK Total
1. Advertising 1,210 16,010
2. Architecture 1,010 11,700
3. Art & Antiques 300 2,580
4. Crafts    
5. Design 1,190 14,720
6. Designer Fashion 80 970
7. Film, Video & Photography 670 10,360
9 & 10. Music & Visual and Performing Arts 2,300 30,460
11. Publishing 940 9,700
8 & 12. Software & Electronic Publishing 150 1,810
8 & 12. Digital & Entertainment Media 40 440
13. TV & Radio 500 7,960
Total 8,400 106,700
Proportion of all creative enterprises 7.90% 100.00%
Source: Department for Culture, Media and Sport (December 2011)

In the South West, creative industries and research excellence in cultural and creative subjects are centred around Bristol, with smaller clusters around Bournemouth and Plymouth. But evidence shows activity outside of London and South East is increasingly concentrated in the Midlands and North West (Chapain et al, November 2010).

Furthermore, the UK and South West’s strengths in interactive media, games and animation industries are increasingly challenged by global competition. (NESTA, October 2011)

Tourism closely links to the region’s cultural and creative economy that attracts significant numbers of domestic and inbound visitors. Four heritage and leisure paid-for attractions feature in England’s top 20 (EnjoyEngland, 2011) with Stonehenge as the most popular.

For all visitors in 2009/10, the top three most visited local authorities were Bristol, Restormel and North Cornwall (the latter two now part of Cornwall County Council), and for international visitors alone, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset rank in the UK top 20 NUTS2 areas (Tourist Intelligence Unit, October 2011).

Of 29.8 million inbound visitors to the UK who spent £16.9 billion in 2010, 2.1 million visited the South West and generated £902 million in spend (EnjoyEngland, 2011).

The domestic holiday market is a regional strength, attracting 1-in-5 domestic overnight trips in England and 25% of all ‘pure’ holiday trips. However, volume and value trends in the UK and South West are predicted to fall in spite of a small recovery in 2009.

Culture and sport engagement

Public engagement in culture, leisure and sport is a strategic objective of DCMS (and sponsored bodies) in order to improve people’s quality of life and aligns with the Big Society agenda. Of progress towards higher levels of participation and attendance, evidence from two major annual surveys, Taking Part and Active People, reveals a mixed picture.

Data from Taking Part (DCMS, December 2011) show high levels of adult engagement in the arts (80.2% in the South West compared to 75.9% in 2009/10) and visits to a heritage site (73.3% in the South West). Across England, adult visits to a museum or gallery between July and September 2011 were the highest on record - with the region’s annual rate increasing from 39.8% to 42.5% (2009/10 to 2010/11).

Of most concern is the significant and steady decrease of adult visits to libraries and archives between 2005/06 and 2010/11. In the South West, for example, adult visits to a library in the past 12 months fell to 39.2% and to an archive, the rate has fallen to 3.3%.

Figure 11.2: To show percentage share of all England domestic visitors to the South West

[ Zoom ]
Source: Enjoy England - South West Factsheet
Also indicative of cultural engagement is cinema admissions and British film production levels. Annual statistics (British Film Institute, August 2011) show cinema remains robust. More people are watching more films across more platforms with cinema admissions up by 0.7% compared to the first half of 2010 (British Film Institute, August 2011). To date, the UK is the third largest film market in the world, with industry exports in 2009 of £1,476 million worth of film services including film productions such as The King’s Speech. While UK film production (over £500,000 budgets) was the lowest on record for the first half of 2011, a declining number of higher budget independent domestic films was counter-balanced by a rise in lower budget ones. Television watching remains the most popular leisure activity for adults and children (DCMS, December 2011) and may increase with expansion of local TV, encouraged by Government (DCMS, July 2011; August 2011). Bristol and Plymouth are expected to receive the first licenses (DCMS, October 2011).

In terms of participation in physical recreational activity, Taking Part (DCMS, December 2011b) found a significant increase across England from 41.2% to 43.0% of adults doing moderate intensity sport in the last week. Measuring more vigorous engagement, Sport England’s Active People Survey 5 (October 2010 to September 2011) reveals less encouraging rates. In the South West, 16.5% of adults participated in 30 minutes of sport at moderate intensity at least three times a week (3X30 target). While rates in most South West local authorities remain unchanged, there are some variations (Sport England, December 2011). Cheltenham’s rate increased from 16% in 2007/8 to 23.5% in 2010/11 whereas Mid Devon’s rate decreased from 12.9% to 8.4% (Sport England, December 2011). These rates are low but actual numbers are slowly rising and interestingly, the South West rate is one of the highest of nine English regions (see Figure 11.3 below).

Of most concern across England is the fall in young people’s participation rates (adults aged 16-19 years). Reasons given by adults for non participating included cost and work pressures which link to a fall in weekly household spend on ‘recreation and culture’ from £80.10 in 2005 to £58.10 in 2010

London 2012

With a public funding package worth £9.3 billion (DCMS, December 2011), including £2.2 billion of National Lottery funds, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a significant event. Apart from the opportunity for elite athletes, it is also being used to encourage young people’s participation in sports, attract international visitors, and promote UK creative businesses and talent. According to Taking Part, 63.3% of adults in the South West are supportive of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (DCMS, December 2011) compared to an England average of 67%. Variations in attitudes show: people who live in London, the East of England and the South East are most in favour; people with a limiting illness or disability are more supportive than those without a limiting illness or disability. Support is predicted to increase in the South West where the torch relay route starts in Cornwall and Weymouth sailing events take place.

Figure 11.3: Adult Participation Rates in Sport of 30 Minutes Moderate Intensity at least 3 times a week (3X30 target) across England

[ Zoom ]
Adult Participation rates in sport of 30 minutes moderate intensity at least 3 times a week (3X30 target) across England
Source: Sport England

Big Society

A key theme of Coalition Government policy is the ‘Big Society’ and underpins much of DCMS’ sponsored cultural and sporting activities. A critical objective is to increase public volunteering and charitable-giving. Of volunteering in DCMS’ sectors, Taking Part (DCMS, December 2011) found 24.2% of adults in England volunteered in 2010/11 and, of these, 31.8% volunteered within DCMS sectors. The Citizenship Survey (disbanded as of March 2011) found levels of adult participation in formal volunteering were unchanged between 2008/09 and 2009/10 (DCLG, December 2011) but participation in informal volunteering significantly fell. Similar trends are found in the South West but regional rates are above average, if not highest, for both formal and informal types of volunteering, with 2009/10 rates of 31% and 32% respectively for once a month and 49% and 60% respectively for once in the past year. The main barrier to participation in volunteering is cited as ‘work commitments’, and thus the region’s higher than average volunteering rates may in part be due to a demographically older and retired population.

Of volunteering in sports, Active People Survey 5 (Sport England, December 2011) found the South West experienced the highest increase (8.1%) between 2005/06 and 2010/11 and the highest volunteering rate in 2010/11 for all English regions at 5.3%. Districts in Gloucestershire were especially successful in changing rates between 2005/06 and 2010/11 with the highest increase of 14.4% in Cheltenham.

An important element of the ‘Big Society’ is to encourage philanthropic attitudes and charitable donations. Taking Part found 88.4% of adults had donated money in the last 12 months with 33.0% donating to any DCMS sector (DCMS, December 2011). Of DCMS sectors in receipt of charitable-giving, the highest were heritage (16.0%) and museums and galleries (15.2%). Interestingly, an Arts & Business survey (January 2011) found private investment in culture decreased by 3% across England between 2007/08 and 2009/10 but increased by 25% in the South West during the same period. These percentages obscure the substantial amount of money donated by ordinary people at a time of rising living costs.


Framed by the over-arching policy statement ‘DCMS aims to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries’ (DCMS, May 2011), the Department’s goals are politically uncontentious. With cross-over into other policy fields, DCMS shares responsibilities with other Departments such as Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and DCLG for cultural and economic development, local government reform and Big Society agenda. Since the May 2010 General Election, the most radical transformation has been to the institutional landscape in which cultural policy is delivered. Most notable is the abolition of Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and UK Film Council. MLA responsibilities transferred to Arts Council England (as of 1 October 2011) and those of UK Film Council transferred to the British Film Institute (as of 1 April 2011), with distribution of National Lottery film funds passing to a new agency - Creative England. Launched in October 2011, Creative England aims to build on the work of Regional Screen Agencies such as South West Screen that merged into the new agency. Other bodies, such as UK Sport and Sport England, and Centre for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and Design Council, are negotiating future arrangements. Also noteworthy is the closure of South West Tourism and formation of South West Tourism Alliance.

As well as structural change, public-funded cultural bodies have been adjusting to new governance geographies (both physical and sectoral) and the imperatives of localism and lower Treasury allocations. This process is still in progress but a critical issue to emerge is that of matching capacity to the expectations of their constituencies. With reduced budgets and staffing, DCMS’ sponsored bodies and National Lottery distributors are focusing on core responsibilities and strengthening partnerships with local authorities and private sector to help deliver wider cultural and related economic policy. Bearing in mind national and regional institutional and processual changes mentioned above, the South West Culture Board was replaced in 2010 by the South West Cultural Agencies Network that brings together representatives from cultural and governmental bodies (including Arts Council England, Big Lottery Fund, Creative England, Creating Excellence, English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, Sport England, and the South West Local Authority
Cultural Partnership).

At local level, new delivery mechanisms are evolving in response to public sector reforms, fiscal constraint and citizens’ different priorities for cultural and leisure services. Understandably, the priority for local councils and delivery partners is statutory services, and therefore, difficult decisions are being made about resource allocations. This process is particularly de-stabilising for those cultural organisations whose business models rely on public subsidy. Although cultural businesses have been moving towards diversified income streams, the need for public-private partnerships and corporate sponsorship has become urgent. Regional and local networks of public and private cultural and sporting organisations are proving a valuable source of business support, news exchange and collaboration.

Looking at the key themes, it is clear that championing and growing the cultural and creative economy are top priorities for policy-makers and cultural delivery bodies, and of importance to many local authorities in South West England. As part of The Plan for Growth (HM Treasury, March 2011), Digital and Creative Industries and Tourism are identified for Government support, including improvements to the Intellectual Property (IP) regime, de-regulation of communications and media framework and a GREAT marketing campaign in the run-up to London 2012 Games.

Examination of changes to the state of culture in South West England and its public policy context, indicate a turbulent and unpredictable situation for the foreseeable future. Of certainties, the strategic objectives of economic growth and transformation of public-funded services will continue to inform the direction of travel. Fundamental to achievement of these goals is a greater understanding of the wider and longer term impacts of cultural and sporting activities on local economies and citizen well-being. A recent DCMS commissioned study (CASE, July 2011) analysed the effects of cultural and sport investment on, for example, business activity, local property

markets, and social, educational and health outcomes, and found considerable mutual benefits. This ‘spillover’ effect is similar to that found between creative industries and other high-growth sectors (Chapain et al, November 2010, NESTA, October 2009). With diminishing public investment in business development, and continuing credit restrictions on small businesses, economic growth is a long term goal. In the meantime, patterns of creative enterprise may continue to change throughout the UK and South West. It is imperative that decision-makers, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and private investors, understand the complex ecologies of a local cultural and creative economy in order to assess the merits of any one project or public intervention, and to maximise its opportunities.
Turning briefly to the visitor economy that is so important to South West England, evidence shows tourism will continue to be adversely affected by global and national financial uncertainties and rises to oil price and cost of living. While the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will boost international and domestic visitor numbers, including those to the Weymouth area and torch relay events, evidence shows ‘staycations’ are becoming more local (VisitBritain, July 2011). The challenge for the South West tourist industry, with its strength in this domestic holiday market, will be to forge closer and mutually beneficial partnerships with cultural sectors.
Local authority funded cultural, leisure and sport services are the subject of much debate but the most contentious and emotive area is probably that of libraries. Because libraries are a statutory service, closures by local councils have generated considerable resistance and is the subject of a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry. Modernisation should be the preferred option, as demonstrated by local authorities involved in the Future Libraries programme and described in a Local Government Group and MLA paper (LGG and MLA, August 2011). Reforms to cultural and leisure services are ‘work in progress’ but it is evident that future provision and control of public owned cultural assets are undergoing an unprecedented transformation.

In conclusion, financial issues have dominated this discourse, but the impact of public spending cuts vis-a-vis the four key themes should not be under estimated. However, there is good news on the cultural horizon! By April 2012, 60% of National Lottery funds will be allocated to cultural, heritage and sports activities including an increase to film funds. According to National Lottery accounts for 2010/11 (DCMS, December 2011), Arts Council England distributed £120 million, British Film Institute just over £11 million, Sport England £269 million, UK Sport £101 million and Heritage Lottery Fund £539 million. Of the £1.7 billion raised during 2010/11, £292 million was allocated to the Olympic Development Lottery Fund. Notwithstanding the legacy of London 2012 Games, a re-allocation of funds opens up new opportunities for public investment in culture.

The challenge for Government and distributors will be to maintain a clear distinction between the objectives of the National Lottery Fund and those of governmental policy. Looking beyond monetary matters, there is little doubt that cultural sectors will continue to play a central role in the distinct quality of life and prosperity in localities across South West England.


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