Bristol’s business leaders: “Culture matters for the long term health of the city”

A statement from Bristol’s business community which went out to the media on Friday 16th June

As Bristol City Council’s Cabinet meeting approaches, an important decision has to be made on continuing their support for the transformation of the Colston Hall. Business West – Chamber of Commerce & Initiative, CBI SW, Institute of Directors South West, the Federation of Small Businesses SW and Bristol Junior Chamber are collectively calling on the council to sustain their support of culture and the arts and lead the way by continuing to back the transformation of Colston Hall.

Our arts and culture scene is part of what defines us, enriching and touching the lives of people of all ages and across all communities in Bristol.  And it plays a crucial role in supporting our city and regional economy to thrive and grow. We increasingly differentiate ourselves from other larger cities such as Birmingham and Manchester through the strength and breadth of our cultural offer, which helps retain and attract talent and investment from across the world. We are widely and increasingly recognised as the most attractive city in the UK to live in – we must not put this at risk and cannot afford to stand still.  We need to continue to find every way to invest in the city’s future.

As the city and region’s business leaders, we recognise that culture matters to everyone in the city and see the ambitious £48.8 million Colston Hall transformation overseen by Bristol City Council and Bristol Music Trust as an investment in our economy and the future. 

Arts and culture benefits – reaching far and wide

Study after study proves that the arts have a significant economic impact on local communities; culture builds stronger communities; arts education helps children develop higher level skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

The Government estimates that the cultural sector contribution to the UK economy is around £27 billion – some 1.6% of the UK total. For every £1 increase in the arts and culture industry’s output, the economy-wide increase results in £2.15 for society.

More locally, a Bristol Arts Sector Impact report was undertaken by UWE Bristol in 2016 with 30 key arts providers and independent groups from across the city. This found that the total turnover of these organisations was over £55 million for 2015/2016, with 1,706 people employed in the sector, a further 1,654 regular volunteers and a total audience engaged with of just under 3.5 million. These results revealed high levels of public engagement and a significant economic return on cultural investment – of £4.5 million from Bristol City Council and £11.3 million from ACE (excluding capital investments).

‘An essential, not just a nice to have’

Cities are now recognised by the Government as being the key drivers of the UK’s future economic growth. Bristol and the West of England continues to deliver the most successful economy of any region outside of London and, with greater local control thanks to the recent signing of our first city region devolution deal, our future economic prosperity is increasingly in the hands of our local politicians. 

We recognise the tough financial decisions having to be taken by the city council at the moment, but we believe it is vital that Bristol City Council maintains its commitment to invest in key cultural venues and takes the lead in encouraging and leveraging the government and private donors to do the same. 

Cultural investment is an essential part of a successful regional economy, not just a nice to have.

Our venues positively differentiate our city-wide offer from other parts of the country, making the region a more attractive place for people to live, work and visit. 

£253.7 million boost to Bristol

The recent independent financial assessment of the Trust’s transformation by KPMG couldn’t have been better timed. There is a clear and simple case for the economic benefits of the venue, with a whopping £412.5 million boost to the UK economy predicted over the next 20 years – £253.7 million of this in Bristol.

With investment commitments from the Government, Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and private donors worth around £20 million already secure, the business community is united in its call to Bristol City Council to confirm its pledge of £10 million and continued underwriting of the project.

Investing in the city’s concert venue is more important than ever and is for the long term. 

The transformed Colston Hall will provide us with a world-class venue that we can all be proud of, it will provide greater opportunities for young people to turn their passion for music into enterprise, and it will create new national standards for music education that every young person across our city can benefit from. And now this is powerfully backed up by the evidence of the economic gains it will bring to the city.

The transformation of Colston Hall into a truly iconic and inspiring cultural centre for Bristol and the UK is a huge opportunity for us all – and one that can become a reality in the next two years for the long term benefit of the people of Bristol and our economy. 

Business West – Chamber of Commerce & Initiative
Institute of Directors South West
Federation of Small Businesses SW
Bristol Junior Chamber