For a long time there was a dangerous myth locally about business and the arts that they were mutually exclusive; the misguided notion was commerce and business is about making money where as the arts sector simply mop it up with grants but don’t put back. However, events such as the nationally renowned “Play in the Park” produced by The Dukes in Williamson Park every summer and the recent Light Up Lancaster Festival are tangible examples of how the arts help local businesses by getting folk out enjoying themselves and spending money.
Likewise the marvellous Vintage Weekend which recently took place in Morecambe. Though strictly speaking it leaned more towards “heritage” than “arts”, it had a definite creative feel about it. Indeed, arts and heritage together seem to be a winning formula so far as visitors and spending money is concerned.
The good news for Lancaster and Morecambe is we have arts and heritage in abundance and so if the right decisions and investments are made we have the perfect recipe for major economic regeneration.
It’s hard to see a place through new eyes when you have lived there all your life, but I’ve shown plenty of folk round Lancaster and Morecambe over the years who are new to the area and phrases like “hidden gem” and “amazing view” are usual. It’s predictable but reassuring, rather like the obligatory scene in Dr Who when a new person steps into the TARDIS and says on cue “but it’s bigger on the inside”. But the point is it’s true - the TARDIS is bigger on the inside and Lancaster is a hidden gem and Morecambe has an amazing view.
So what about that myth about the Arts being about spending money not making it? Well an Economic Impact Study commissioned in 2011 found then that for every £1 of core investment in the Arts locally by finders such as the Arts Council, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council there was an economic benefit of £5.19.
Not a bad return, so let’s have more of it; more investment, more arts and heritage and more benefit to the local economy.
By Gary Rycroft