Jan 31st 2017

Why Cornwall’s European Capital of Culture bid is brilliant, not bonkers


Just over a month ago the government’s Culture Minister Karen Bradley announced the launch of the nationwide competition to find the European Capital of Culture 2023. Every year two EU countries share the Capital of Culture title – in 2023 those countries are due to be Hungary and the UK. They will each put forward a number of cities – one from each country will be selected to win the title. So yes, despite Brexit, the government has signalled its intention to continue; it knows several cities outside the EU have held the title in the past.

Last week Cornwall Council voted in favour of Truro submitting a bid. Cornwall’s bid, will be up against several UK cities which have already declared their intentions to bid – Leeds, Dundee and Milton Keynes.

Here are ten reasons why this is GREAT news and why we can win:

  1. Growing our economy: Becoming a European Capital of Culture creates economic growth. Every euro of public money invested in Lille 2004 generated an estimated 8 euros for the local economy. In 2008 Liverpool generated an economic impact of £753.8m. Capital of Culture provides a one off opportunity to give Cornwall’s economy the boost it so desperately needs. Our front line services will be increasingly reliant on the number of businesses that thrive in Cornwall because it is the income from business rates which will fund them. We need to invest now to unlock the potential of our economy and culture is part of the solution.
  2. Raising the aspirations of our young people. Too many young people in Cornwall feel that great things happen somewhere else. Every year we lose hundreds of talented young people who feel that its only outside Cornwall that they can achieve success. We need to change that story. Capital of Culture is a chance to put Cornwall on the global stage and deliver a programme of breath-taking events and experiences that involve every child and young person and open their minds to the possibilities and potential of our place.
  3. Media exposure that money can’t buy. The Creative Industries are one of the UKs economic success stories. Cornwall is home to 1200 creative businesses including world beating creative businesses from film makers to fashion designers; they have an appetite for growth and the skills to trade around the world. Talk to these businesses and they will tell you that what they want to expand their international links. Capital of Culture will give us unprecedented media coverage to help promote the Cornwall brand.
  4. Changing the perception of Cornwall. Smart cities know that investing in culture is what gives them the edge. Its why Manchester has put culture at the heart of its economic development strategy and why London is investing £100m in one museum alone. For our economy to succeed we need to create more good jobs in Cornwall. We need more investors to consider Cornwall as the place where they can do business. Capital of Culture will send a strong message that Cornwall is a vibrant and innovative place to live and work.
  5. Putting Cornwall at the front of the queue post Brexit. We need to show our European partners that Cornwall is ready for business. By becoming European Capital of Culture we’ll send a confident message which shows we are an outward facing region keen to work with and welcome people from around the world.
  6. Boosting our visitor economy Marseille-Provence 2013 attracted a record number of 11 million individual visits. In Liverpool, Capital of Culture produced total income of £130 million over six years. Tourism businesses in Merseyside were overwhelmingly positive about the benefits they experienced. Importantly, our year long programme will help us to market Cornwall as an all year destination helping to increase income for tourism in the shoulder season and winter months.
  7. Developing skills – research shows thattaking part in structured music activities improves attainment in language and maths. Schools that integrate arts across the curriculum have shown higher average reading and maths scores than those which don’t. Students from low income families that take part in arts activities are 3 times more likely to gain a degree. It is still the case that too many children and young people in Cornwall have limited access to the arts. Capital of Culture is an opportunity to address the inequalities in arts engagement – developing skills for young people across Cornwall.
  8. Creativity is what we do best – Cornwall has a proud history of artistic and engineering achievement. We have nurtured and attracted creative thinkers who have changed the course of history. Life on the edge helps us think differently. Creativity is one of our strengths and this is a competition we can win.
  9. Benefits across the whole of Cornwall – this isn’t just about Truro. Our bid will be for Cornwall as a whole. The European Capital of Culture guidance is clear – any bid needs to be of benefit for the lead city and the surrounding area. We have a natural talent for collaboration in Cornwall, we can use our vibrant community networks to extend the benefits of this programme to every community in Cornwall.
  10. Culture makes life better – evidence shows that being involved in the arts has a positive impact on specific health conditions including dementia, depression and Parkinson’s. People who have attended a cultural event in the last 12 months are 60% more likely to report good health; more frequent engagement with arts and culture is associated with improved wellbeing. 4 of the top 6 activities most conducive to human happiness and wellbeing are arts related. Putting it simply, for thousands of people across Cornwall culture is already making their lives better. You can listen to their stories here.

Capital of Culture is good news for everyone in Cornwall. From Morwenstow to Mousehole from St Austell to St Levan Cornwall’s Capital of Culture programme will see amazing things happening in every community up and down the Duchy.  It’s the gamechanger we should all get behind. Let’s back the bid – it’s brilliant.

To find out more about more about how culture benefits Cornwall watch our short film

Emmie Kell is CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership a charity which helps museums to thrive for the benefit of everyone in Cornwall.