What makes a global city an attractive place in which to work and live? A buoyant economy, quick transport links, good housing, low crime rates, excellent education, and easy access to healthcare are always cited as key factors. But to that we should also add the cultural offer, and last week London upped its game with the proposals for a Centre for Music in the Square Mile.
With the feasibility study published, we have now moved a step closer to a world-class concert hall, built for the digital age, as the government has pledged to provide £5.5m in funding for a full business case. What the study showed was that there was a clear economic case behind the project, benefiting the UK economy to the tune of £890m. But there are well-developed business, cultural and tourism arguments for going ahead with the new Centre for Music as well.
The City of London Corporation is fully behind this vision by agreeing in principle to make land available for the venue. The Centre would be a place for all – hosting a diverse range of music, from the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle to the contemporary. Education would be at its heart and we will want to make sure that communities in London and across the UK, especially youngsters, are engaged.
With the near completion of Crossrail, getting to this proposed venue will become much smoother. So much so that it will bring almost a million more visitors to the area every year. We all know that London has so much to offer on the cultural front and it accounts for a very big proportion of the tourism to the capital. Over 17m international tourists visited London in 2014, up from 15m in 2011, with 70 per cent of them citing culture and heritage as a major reason behind their visit.
We can offer a lot in the Square Mile too, with the likes of the Barbican, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Monument, the Tower of London, the Museum of London and much, much more.
A potential new Centre for Music and new Museum of London are a key part of our plans for a cultural hub right in the very centre of London. It will also help tackle the misconception that the City is a place full of people in suits and simply sprawling with offices and skyscrapers.
There is a lot of work to do before the new Centre for Music would be up and running, but we are fully behind these plans. It would be a tremendous addition to the capital and, of course, the wider UK. Yet other countries are racing ahead with their very own offers, especially across Asia and with the acclaimed new Philharmonie hall in Paris.
As it was aptly described in the feasibility study, this is a decisive moment for music in this country.
Mark Boleat is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.