A piece of City of London land offered for free to 8,800 independent artists for twelve months has generated £40m in revenue for the UK economy.
The NDT Broadgate initiative ran for twelve months in 2021 and 2022, providing rehearsal spaces, writing rooms, co-working areas, recording booths, studios and workshops to the creative community free of charge. The full report about revenue gained is available online.
Many of the shows that were created at the space went on to get major West End runs, or runs in prominent cultural venues or at UK festivals.
The initiative repurposed out-of-use office space that had become vacant, with 97% of fittings and furniture sourced second-hand and 90% of those pieces being passed on to new homes following the project.
Simon Carter, chief executive of British Land, the UK commercial property company behind the scheme, said the revenue demonstrated “the power of culture as a driver for economic and social growth,” especially post-pandemic.
“We hope the evidence presented in this report encourages greater partnership across artists, cultural organisations, property companies, policymakers and local government,” he added.
David Byrne, artistic director at New Diorama Theatre who collaborated on the project said the initiative had sparked a “creative revolution” in the way theatres and arts organisations work that will “go down in British theatre history.”
British Land has announced a further £15 million in cash contributions and £10 million of space will be given to bolster education, employment and social space initiatives in the future, as part of a further social impact fund.
It comes during a particularly challenging time for the arts, when both of the UK’s major theatre festivals have become beleaguered. London’s Vault Festival, second-only in scope to the Edinburgh Fringe, has been displaced by its landlord who are favouring more commercial projects, leaving the festival without a home for 2024 and beyond, and the Edinburgh Fringe has announced “existential threat” to the future of the festival due to rising costs.
City A.M. has launched a campaign to raise awareness around the struggles of Vault Festival, with British acting names like Emma Corrin and Nicola Coughlan standing behind our campaign.
Emma Corrin said: “Vault is incredibly important. It’s where a lot of new work originates, where a lot of new voices can be heard. I think that’s integral in keeping the fabric of theatre alive.”
Coughlan added that losing Vault “would be a devastating loss for the theatre community.”
Commercial landlord Richard Upton has also written for us on the way venues and private landlords can work together to prioritise artists and increase the value of commercial properties. He refers to a concept called ‘Placemaking’ which sees landlords let the arts have space in prominent spaces to raise the value of properties.
As independent cultural venues work to find new solutions to stay open, the Music Venues Trust were recently celebrating a successful campaign to save 9 independent music venues by crowdfunding the cost of running the venues from music lovers as well as from private sector companies. A spokesperson said: “We know that changing the ownership model of grassroots music venues is the single most important change we can make to this sector.”
The arts are a huge bolster to the UK economy. Every pound of public funding going into the arts brings in £5 in tax contributions, according to the Arts Council, and the most recent figures show an annual return of £2.35 billion to the Treasury.
You can donate to the Save Vault campaign here.