WHAT is London? A city, yes, but so much more. It is a global centre of finance, sure. It is by some measures the world’s creative capital, from media to theatre to film; home to the world’s most popular music venue and its most popular modern art gallery. The university capital of the world, with more top universities and international students than any other city. A global leader in medical research, and the European leader in digital technology. We might not be the fashion capital quite yet, but we did give the world the business suit. The best restaurants, even the French are starting to say. More museums than Paris, less rain than Rome, a quarter the murder rate of New York. Next year, we’ll become the first city in history to host the Olympics three times.
I say all this because when we asked business what the top thing is that the Mayor can do to boost the London economy, the answer came: promote it. He is in a unique position to champion London around the world, in a way that no individual company can.
The Mayor inherited various agencies – Think London, to promote inward investment, Study London, to encourage international students, and Visit London, to encourage tourists. They all did a good job within their sector, but businesses urged the Mayor to merge them so we can take a more strategic and flexible approach, and get more promotional bang for our buck. Uniting them, we can promote a coherent message about London with a single brand, and promote whichever sectors give the greatest economic returns. By combining forces, we can reduce duplication and increase the firepower.
After two years of preparations, we last week launched the capital’s new promotional agency – London and Partners. Despite cuts from central government, we managed to fund it from our own resources. And although mainly publicly funded, we set it up to be ruthlessly commercially-led, with a private sector board, and working in close partnership with companies as well as public agencies. From early days, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, chairman of the New West End Company, was very generous with her time, and we were delighted when she agreed to be the founding chairman.
All we need do now is actually promote London. And what a time to do it! This month we have the Royal wedding, next year the Queen’s diamond Jubilee closely followed by the Olympics and Paralympics, with the world’s eyes upon us. London and Partners will be leading the charge in using the 2012 games to promote all that our great city has to offer the world. London might be glowing, but it is set to shine even brighter.
Planning an event for 2012? Share details by 31 March 2011 and be part of a unique and exciting year.
Cultural events: http://www.theculturediary.com
Other events: http://www.london.gov.uk/eventsin2012
Anthony Brown is an adviser to the Mayor of London