Arts, as much as finance, make the City what is is: a great international hub providing opportunities for people. That’s why we need to invest in the arts, starting from school, writes Nicholas Lyons
The City of London is known worldwide as a leading hub for finance, but its identity spans much more, including being a global centre for the creative industries.
Arts are still, in some places, not regarded as a priority. The fact that they’re not included in the English baccalaureate group of subjects plays a role in this. Studying some subjects up until the end of school is symbolic as much as about skills; the renewed focus on maths proves we value it as an important subject. Excluding arts from the English baccalaureate sends the wrong message, and it’s a mistake, not only for our young people but for our economy too.
Creative skills – our arts, culture, design, and architecture scene – gives the City a competitive edge over our international rivals and makes us a magnet for talent. But these creative industries have faced significant challenges in recent years due to the effects of the pandemic and Brexit.
They also face the long-term challenge of ensuring a future pipeline of skills and talent, at a time when educational opportunities in the arts have been diminished for many young people.
Throughout our history, the Square Mile has been a place where commerce and creativity have thrived side by side. The City’s position as a centre of culture is important, but sometimes underplayed.
Yet the creative industries bring huge economic value to the UK economy. They contribute more than £115bn to our economy and export £36bn worldwide, accounting for almost 12 per cent of UK services exports, according to the Creative Industries Federation. They also provide over two million jobs across the UK, including more than 600,000 in London.
The capital’s cultural offering also boosts its attractiveness as a location for businesses and investment. When international financial and professional services firms are looking at where to locate, having a city in which staff want to live is a huge competitive advantage. And people want to live in London for many reasons, its arts and culture scene being one of them.
And finally, the skills and innovation nurtured by our creative industries filter through into other parts of the economy, supporting our financial services sector – such as consultancy, professional services, and fintech.
As UK Music points out, “lucky breaks” in the arts do not often happen by accident. They are the result of years of hard work, underpinned by an education system that supports creative skills, with the right infrastructure in place and targeted funding and investment.
There is a danger of opportunities in the arts being narrowed and becoming a preserve of the better-off who can afford private education. We would all be poorer as a result.
The City of London Corporation is determined to support the creative sector, and as its fourth largest UK funder, we invest more than £130m every year. It’s why we manage a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and Guildhall Art Gallery. All of these institutions depend on a skilled workforce.
Quality of life, and the richness and authenticity which culture brings, is a vital part of what makes London an economic powerhouse. If we want the UK’s creative industries to thrive and give our financial services sector a competitive edge, we need to invest in the young artists of the future. We must never become complacent to that fact.