We should embrace the City’s historic role in nurturing the arts in Britain

Roger Gifford

that summer has finally arrived, bringing with it a welcome burst of sunshine, there is no better way to celebrate the great outdoors than by enjoying the range of cultural activities available across the Square Mile.

Only last week we held the City Beerfest in the Guildhall Yard – an event bringing together City bell-ringers, Irish music, and top quality British ales as part of the City of London Festival. A winning combination, I am sure most in the Square Mile would agree.

The Festival is also again bringing together leading international talent, with a particular emphasis on connecting the City of London with Derry-Londonderry and other historic walled cities – from Berlin to Jerusalem.

This underlines how the City’s arts cluster is partnering with international institutions and individuals to provide a cultural exchange. Last season, for example, 70 of the Barbican’s 95 music events showcased international artists, groups or orchestras. This is an enormous plus when it comes to flying the flag for Brand Britain across the globe – building commercial partnerships on foundations of friendship.

From art to acting, music to museums, the City’s cluster of world class organisations is a unique asset that improves the quality of life for workers, residents and visitors from across the capital and beyond – not to mention the £291m in gross value added and 7,200 jobs it generates across London.

The sector is a conduit for jobs and growth right across the UK – but more than that it raises aspirations across communities. It is important to make this case for investing in excellence across the arts.

Arts organisations know that there is a need to update business models to reflect the current economic environment. The challenge is to continue inspiring investor confidence by facilitating philanthropy alongside public funding. In other words the arts need both public and private sector investment.

Centuries of both philanthropic practice, and our understanding of the value of endowed capital, have ensured that the UK has very well-established and effective charity and tax law. This helps to make London a global centre for managing international philanthropic funds.

“Enlightened self-interest” has been a mainstay of support for the arts since Dick Whittington and before. This is a sector which has always flourished under a system of patronage – complementing state support. I hope, therefore, that more people will follow in the footsteps of the Livery Companies’ new legacy initiative, designed to establish an enduring philanthropic funding stream.

The City has a long history of investing in excellence, and investment in the arts will continue this tradition.

Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.