Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Culture Is the Engine for Our Economic Growth; as London's Bright Star Rises on the World Stage, Munira Mirza Warns Us Not Be Complacent

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Culture Is the Engine for Our Economic Growth; as London's Bright Star Rises on the World Stage, Munira Mirza Warns Us Not Be Complacent

Article excerpt

"IUSED to think London was exciting. It is, compared with Bradford. But compared with New York or San Francisco it's nothing." So said a young David Hockney in 1966 of his decision to leave Britain for the US. It was the year that Time Magazine declared on its front cover that London was The Swinging City, but for many artists and musicians, the tentative sprouting of youthful energy in Carnaby Street or Kings Road still seemed like anomalous dots of colour in the grey metropolis and could not compete with New York where the arts scene was glamourous and fuelled by all-hours nightlife.

Throughout much of the Sixties and Seventies London remained grim, its beautiful architecture covered in grime and surrounded by soulless post-war property redevelopments. It wasn't just creatives who struggled; the overall population dropped by 20 per cent, from 8.2 million in 1951 to 6.6 million in 1981. Talent and money ebbed away.

Fast-forward 50 years and we're in a very different place. London today reigns supreme. It has the highest number of international tourists of any city in the world and has been rated top of the Global Power City Index for the sixth consecutive year. We're a cultural powerhouse, home to three of the world's top 10 museums, four world heritage sites, and the world's most popular music venue -- the O2.

Each year there are more than 200 theatre shows, 250 festivals, and 17,000 music performances. We are the world's third-busiest moviemaking centre, we have the highest concentration of universities in Europe and we account for 30 per cent of the global arts market. Throughout the creative industries London punches way above its weight. People are beating a path to our door. Even Hockney has come to see London differently - his Royal Academy show in 2012 was one of the world's most popular that year with more than 600,000 visitors. Culture has become an engine for London's economic growth, contributing PS42 billion and driving tourism and retail industries, as well as employment and regeneration. We have a surging population, predicted to be more than nine million by 2021. People and businesses are attracted, in large part by our cultural landscape. We're a city that thrives on buzz and new ideas, but we also guard our traditions. For many there is a degree of constancy in our culture; London won't let you down.

However, it is not just about economics. Culture is the glue that really binds, especially in cities with fast-growing populations. …

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