Leeds’s cultural wealth will be the real currency driving forward the city’s economic success in the coming years post-Brexit.
That’s the view of the head of an influential lobbying organisation for the arts, which will be bringing its message to Leeds later this week.
The Creative Industries Federation is a nationwide partnership of 1,000 organisations which works to secure policy backing, investment and infrastructure for creative organisations. Its members include key players in Leeds’s arts and academic scene.
The Federation’s chief executive John Kampfner will be the keynote speaker at the Leeds 2023/Creative Europe conference at the Carriageworks theatre on Friday, where he will discuss the UK’s economic and industrial strategy post-Brexit in the context of the arts and the creative industries. He will also meet senior civic figures to discuss the city’s bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023. Mr Kampfner is strongly supporting the idea of a UK entry in the race for the 2023 title.
And although he said he “couldn’t and shouldn’t” pick a favoured city, he stressed Leeds had “hit the ground running” with a “very confident, very vocal and visual” bid.
“It’s been talked about a lot,” he said.
“And there’s no reason for any city to be bashful. The more thought through a bid is, the stronger it will be. Certainly Leeds has started very impressively.”
The Federation has launched its own 10 point election manifesto urging a future Government of any persuasion to remember that “the UK’s creative industries are key to driving growth in a post-Brexit Britain”. It points out that the sector is the fastest growing part of the UK’s economy, contributing £87bn annually.
“The creative industries produce more economic benefits, more growth value added for the UK than oil and gas, automotive and aerospace put together,” Mr Kampfner said. “It’s a story that is very rarely told, and we are incredibly keen to tell the story.
“Whether you are talking nationally or regionally or city to city, the contribution the creative industries make is absolutely massive.
“The reason the Federation was set up was [to show] that the creative industries are not just something soft you do on a Saturday night.
“They are not a bit of frippery and entertainment. They are absolutely central to this country’s reputation globally. They are essential to economic growth, to regional growth, and to urban regeneration in those parts of the country that have had it hardest. The benefits are huge.”
Mr Kampfner acknowledged that the UK’s upcoming divorce from the European Union presents “challenges”, but he pointed out that UK cities have been successfully hosting the year of culture for a long time.
“Liverpool was a success story. Many of them are fabulously successful,” he said.
“But Brexit has challenged everyone’s presumptions,” he added. “And it has certainly shaken people out of any complacency - if there was any - about what constitutes national identity, and what constitutes a city or a region.
“It’s also about what a new Britain outside the EU will base its future success on. There are a lot of successful sectors - tech, science, advanced engineering - where we are doing very well. But the one common denominator around the world that they associate with Britain is our amazing film, TV, music, art galleries, design and fashion. “It’s absolutely our calling card around the world.”