Culture-led regeneration

Research has shown creating places that people feel connected to and inspired by leads to improved health outcomes, and social contributions like volunteering and voting can be higher.

More importantly, they become great places to live and work, where people want to stay and visit.

Building is a key priority for councils – so as we build the homes of the future, we need to make sure we are creating communities and not just one-note housing estates that do not represent the best of what can be achieved. We also want to think about how we can bring new energy to existing communities.

Cultural activity can be critical to this. It can also significantly grow the local economy. But what is the key to an effective cultural strategy and unlocking those core benefits?

The LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board wanted to find out, so all types of places could set about achieving it. We were delighted that the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, an international cultural organisation, also recognised the importance of this research and helped co-fund it.

Only a few can become ‘capitals of culture’, ‘cities of culture’, or ‘London boroughs of culture’. But the increasing calls for more and more ‘titles’ – a group of MPs recently called for a ‘town of culture’ award – show that politicians and economists alike are waking up to the value that can be realised through a strong emphasis on culture.

“The benefits of culture can and should be realised everywhere, without the need for a special status

But the benefits of culture can, and should, be able to be realised everywhere, without the need for a special status. For example, the culture-led regeneration approaches covered by the case studies in our research have:

  • facilitated two million annual visitors to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, with
    £51 million of annual visitor spending
  • increased community pride for 90 per cent of local audience members in Stoke-on-Trent, as part of the Appetite Creative People and Places programme
  • created or safeguarded 1,300 jobs through the NewcastleGateshead Initiative in 2017, with 22 new businesses attracted by its inward investment activities
  • generated more than £1.1 million of economic activity in Great Yarmouth through the Out There Festival.

It doesn’t matter whether you are urban or rural, large or small, economically successful or currently struggling to attract businesses – with a bit of planning, every place is capable of culture-led regeneration.

The research identified a number of key findings to consider if you’re starting out on regeneration, or looking to improve your current work. These include:

  • A shared vision with community and partners is an important foundation.
  • The cultural offer needs to be authentic for your place.
  • Councils may need to commit to cultural investment over the long term.
  • Shorter-term investment for cultural festivals can enable the development of institutions that will yield longer-term sustainable impacts.
  • Community involvement can be a powerful driver for culture-led regeneration.
  • Positive outcomes can be achieved with limited budgets.

The findings of the LGA’s culture-led regeneration research will be explored in more depth at its annual culture and tourism conference on 5 and 6 March at the City of London’s Guildhall. Delegates will also have the opportunity to join study tours of Waltham Forest and Brent, the first two London Boroughs of Culture, as well as explore the City of London’s ‘Cultural Mile’ or experience a guided tour of the British Library. To find out more and book your place, please visit


Thanet’s investments in Margate attractions, including the Turner Contemporary art gallery and Dreamland, an amusement park and entertainment centre based on a traditional English seaside funfair, have resulted in:

  • 300 jobs
  • one million new visitors to Margate since 2011
  • 0.5 million visitors in one summer at Dreamland
  • 19 per cent tourism growth between 2013 and 2015, with annual value rising by £47 million to
    £293 million
  • 1,800 students and teachers from Kent and Medway entering artwork into the Turner’s portfolio competition in 2018
  • catalysing new investment leveraging £35 million private funding for Dreamland, and attracting other new town centre investment including Tracey Emin’s new studio.

Norfolk and Suffolk

Norfolk and Suffolk’s work with New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has resulted in:

  • 349 individuals or businesses supported through the StartEast programme, a business support and grants programme for creative people planning to develop and grow a cultural business
  • a 16 per cent increase in the number of cultural tourists visiting the region
  • a comprehensive culture sector skills strategy
  • networking and collaboration between cultural and technology sectors, facilitating cross-sector economic growth
  • cultural sector leadership through development of a shared strategy and building connections with national organisation and funders.


Stoke’s partnership with Appetite, part of the Creative People and Places programme initiated and funded by Arts Council England, has resulted in:

  • a 20 per cent increase in city centre footfall on the weekend of the Big Feast Festival
  • 100,000 more day visitors to Stoke in 2016
  • cultural and creative sector support for local artist development, supporting growth and development of these sectors
  • 90 per cent of residents feeling an increase in community pride.

Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth’s support of the Out There Festival of street arts and circus has resulted in:

  • £0.8 million of additional visitor spending from 40,000-plus participants annually, including
    2,000 overnight stays in paid accommodation
  • more than £1.1 million of economic activity in 2017, including money spent by attendees and by the festival in delivery
  • inspiration, networking and skills development for circus and street arts performers, particularly through new facilities
  • enhanced town image and community pride.

For more information about the LGA’s work on culture, tourism, leisure and sport, please visit


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