City Is a Cultural Oasis; Liverpool 2008 Relies upon the City's Galleries and Museums. but How Does Art Turn into Cash for the Region? Laura Davis Reports

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Byline: Laura Davis

AMID the flutes of Champagne and with streamers covering the floor near his feet, Sir Jeremy Isaacs praised Liverpool for winning Capital of Culture.

On that day, the day when the city's hopes were realised and its reputation began to change for the better, the judges' chairman said the reason he had placed his faith in Liverpool was for its fine buildings and strong arts organisations.

Yet, in a city full of cranes and roadworks, it is sometimes easy to forget that next year we are celebrating a year of culture - not one of new buildings and shopping centres.

Though the arts may seem like an added extra - a luxury that comes only once the place we live in has dealt with its many problems - this sector is intrinsically linked to regeneration.

For not only does it inspire new uses for forgotten old buildings, there is evidence that it also draws hundreds of thousands of people into the region each year to spend their money here.

Research carried out by Tate Liverpool found that 31 % of last year's visitors to the Albert Dock gallery cited it as their main reason for being in Liverpool.

In addition, a study by the Northwest Development Agency concluded that 107,000 of the 225,000 (48%) overseas visitors to Liverpool in 2003 spent time in at least one of National Museums Liverpool's venues, which include The Walker and the Maritime Museum.

Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, produced an economic report for NML in November, 2005, which estimated that, including Tate Liverpool and the city's other museums and galleries, that proportion would be "likely to approach 75%".

"As a national museums group we're really focused on visitors from Liverpool city as a region but we've also got a remit to make sure that we cater for UK and international visitors as well," explains Tracey McGeagh, NML's head of marketing and communications.

"Tourists are becoming increasingly important because of 2008. There'll be a lot more tourists coming into the city and we want to make sure they visit our venues.

"We're convinced that having a really lively exhibitions programme makes a big difference. This year, we've got 19 exhibitions across all venues.

"I think it's important to have a really strong family friendly offer. There are exhibitions like Animated Adventures and An Eye for Colour that really do attract a lot of family visitors."

Tourists tend to be drawn by particular exhibitions as well as individual works of art. The Egyptian gallery and the planetarium at World Museum Liverpool, the new Titanic display at the Maritime Museum and the Big Art gallery (for children) at The Walker are among the most popular.

The Walker's And When Did You Last See Your Father, which was painted by William Frederick Yeames, in 1878, depicting an imaginary scene in a Royalist house during the English Civil War, is one of the gallery's most popular works.

To the Merseyside region, the financial benefits of having strong museums and galleries are palpable. According to Tate Liverpool, its 566,291 visitors in 2006 generated pounds 14. …