The pandemic’s impact on Liverpool City Region’s cultural industries is revealed in a new report that details a five-year plan to rebuild the sector.
The report – to go before the Combined Authority tomorrow – also reveals 24,000 people, nearly double the number estimated by the Office for National Statistics, worked in the city region’s creative sector before the pandemic.
The new plan – known as the Liverpool City Region Cultural Compact Strategic Action Plan – recognises the key role that arts and culture play in the city region’s economy and in supporting health and wellbeing as the City Region emerges from the pandemic.
It also praises the commitment of arts and cultural organisations to focus on communities and renewal during the Covid-19 pandemic and the sector’s agile and innovative response.
The Cultural Compact identifies three key strategic priorities for the sector’s recovery:
- Creative Communities will champion community-led transformation and develop assets within communities across the Liverpool City Region.
- Creative People will support and facilitate artist, practitioner and community led cultural/creative interventions within city region cultural programmes.
- Creative Places will prioritise the influence and role of arts and culture in the regeneration and recovery of the city region.
According to the report, “Arts, culture and creative industries are amongst the sectors hit hardest by measures to mitigate the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence of the impact of the crisis can be observed across the hospitality sector and visitor economy, hit by the closure of venues and 3,500 redundancies in the first six months of the crisis.”
The report adds: “Closure of music, entertainment and performing arts venues had a catastrophic effect on other parts of the supply chain, including production services, catering and travel companies, whose social and economic impact is immense.”
The report recognises that: “Liverpool City Region’s decision, uniquely, to feature culture in its devolution deal, continues to drive ambition and opportunity for the arts, culture and creative industries across the city region.”
It adds: “Culture has contributed massively to the wellbeing of the city region and its people – if it is to remain the critical and vital part of the city region’s economic and social infrastructure that it has become, the sector will need re-invention and reinvestment.”
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said:
“Culture is in our DNA as a City Region. It’s part of what defines us and plays a key role in all of our lives, not to mention our economy. We have done all we can to support the sector during the pandemic and through our Culture and Creativity Awards we recently celebrated the resilience and ingenuity of our cultural community, who have continued to create and entertain us through these most difficult times.
“We are going to need our cultural and creative sector more than ever, as we start to emerge from lockdown. It has a key role to play in boosting our health and wellbeing as we deal with what we have been through over the last year, and the Cultural Compact Action Plan provides an invaluable blueprint for the sector’s ongoing recovery.”
The funding from Arts Council England was awarded to Culture Liverpool to support the work of/development of the Compact which has been facilitated by the LCR Cultural Partnership.
The Cultural Compact Action Plan builds on an ongoing commitment to the sector, including the 1% For Culture pledge, which commits 1% of the Combined Authority’s annual £30 million budget to the cultural sector, and the successful Borough of Culture programme, as well as the LCR Music Support Fund and LCR Film Development Fund, launched during the pandemic.
The £2m Liverpool City Region Film Production Fund, launched in 2019 with funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, has directly supported five productions in the last year, including Jimmy McGovern’s ‘Time’ starring Sean Bean and ‘Help’ with local actors Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer. The fund is managed by Liverpool Film Office (part of Culture Liverpool).
The Fund has helped to ensure the involvement of local crew and facilities in the productions, building the expertise, reputation and capacity of the local sector. Its linked training has helped to support the next generation of diverse local crew with 40 LCR trainees supported in 2020.
Phil Redmond, Co-Chair of the Cultural Partnership, said:
“As we look to a post-pandemic future and reboot our culture, there will inevitably be challenges ahead, just as there always has been, but there is also a new horizon in an accelerating, digital, post-Covid world.
“This plan lays down a new road map for the next stage of cultural development as we remind people that Liverpool City Region has been, is and will continue to provide the UK’s second city of culture.”
Maggie O’Carroll, Co-Chair of the Cultural Partnership, said:
“The Arts, Culture and Creative sector is integral to the local, national and international identity of Liverpool City Region. No stranger to the world stage, it illuminates and enriches our lives in so many ways, impacting on our sense of being, place, history, and our future. It is a foundation stone to our social wellbeing and cohesion, our physical and mental health, our education system, our national status, and our economy.
“The sector confers such enormous benefits and therefore it is incumbent upon to us to recognise it, celebrate it, support it and invest in it – and that is why we have developed this strategy and action plan in conjunction with the sector to ensure that it prospers and grows.”
Deputy Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism and Visitor Economy and Knowsley Councillor Shelley Powell said:
“The pandemic has demonstrated how innovative and resilient our creative and cultural sector is, as they have continued to create and entertain in new ways in really challenging circumstances. The pent-up appetite to enjoy live, cultural events together is huge and this plan will help to ensure that the sector is still there for us when we can get out there again.”
Liverpool’s Acting Mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon said:
“Without doubt, the cultural sector has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic – seemingly shutting down overnight.
“As we are looking ahead to brighter days, this plan puts culture firmly in the spotlight and shows the confidence in the resilience of the sector and its ability to come back fighting.
“There will be a focus on using culture to not only tell the stories of those who live in our communities in a beautiful, Covid-safe way, but to also send out a real placemaking statement that across Liverpool City Region, culture isn’t just a nice to have – it’s an essential.”
Future Yard – Wirral
Future Yard is a live venue founded thanks to funding from the Music Support Fund. It plans to attract national and international artists as well as provide opportunities for local musicians and training for young people to have careers in live music.
The Argyle St operation also received Future Innovation Fund support with the aim of providing the Wirral town with a huge lift as it emerges from Covid-19 restrictions finding new ways to support artists.
Co-founder Craig Pennington said:
‘’It’s been tough but we know there are people at the city region who have got our back and that makes it a little bit easier. I think having a City Region Music Board which is really engaged, means that the sector’s got representation so that we can shape the response to Covid.
“I feel when we look back on this period we’ll see it as a period of galvanising, of strengthening, of understanding the value that music brings. Maybe what has happened this year has made us realise that and put a value on that and in the long run that’s probably a good thing.”
The Atkinson – Sefton
The Atkinson is Southport’s home for music, art, theatre, literature and history. During the Covid-19 pandemic they gave their services a greater digital focus making exhibitions and outreach programmes more accessible to people and continuing to engage with a large number of participants.
Charlotte Down from The Atkinson said:
“In order to achieve this, staff changed roles becoming photographers and filmmakers, we created digital models of upcoming exhibitions followed by virtual reality tours. The immediate response contributed positively to the mental health and wellbeing of our young participants and local community groups as well as providing numerous commissions to freelance artists and curators.”
Jennifer John – Liverpool
Jennifer John is an award-winning composer, vocal coach (specialising in artistic development) and music mentor who used music as a tool to encourage unity during the first lockdown. She brought 180 participants from 15 countries together to perform in a choir online in a project called ‘Love Sings’ which was also her original composition.
Jennifer John said:
“I invited everyone who was interested to join the virtual choir, there were no restrictions on who could join. We recruited 180 people and then recorded and produced a film of us all singing together from 15 different countries. It really brought people together using the power of the collective human voice.
“We also raised money for two Liverpool charities with the project (The Florrie and All Together now) as they had both been heavily affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
“Moving forward, being able to stand and sing side by side physically will remind us all of the power of social cohesion, but also that we are all more similar than we are different. The collective energy that’s created among people when singing is magical and never to be underestimated.”