COVENTRY University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Arts and Humanities reveals how City of Culture can help lead Coventry and the Midlands region into post-pandemic recovery.
Professor Judith Mossman will be joining other leaders from the region’s cultural sector at a Business Insider Q&A forum on May 25 to discuss Arts and Culture as a business sector – and delve into the role it will play in helping the Midlands’ economic recovery and investment.
In a Q&A interview with the Observer, the Professor talks about how City of Culture will help renewal of the arts and creative industries and be a major asset in attracting skills and investment to the region:
Can major events like Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and the Commonwealth Games raise our profile as a region in which skilled people want to work and businesses invest?
“Absolutely! It’s amazing and concerning that so many people I speak to have never been to Coventry.
People have no idea how special a place it is and how remarkable it is culturally. Raising the profile of Coventry as City of Culture is really going to make a difference.
It’s already starting with the launch on Saturday (May 15), a BBC documentary on the car industry in Coventry (Classic British Cars: Made in Coventry on BBC 4) and a docudrama about Coventry-born Delia Derbyshire (Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes, BBC 4).
People just won’t have necessarily known have who Delia Derbyshire was and now all this stuff is hitting the airwaves and saying what a remarkable place it is. I think it will really result in a big economic improvement for the area.
At the moment tourists who comes to Coventry come on bus tour to see the Cathedral – 45 minutes is the average time spent in Coventry.
The Cathedral is completely awesome! When I was growing up, we came from the south to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and my parents did want to see Coventry Cathedral as they were of part of the post-war generation. I remember aged seven thinking how wonderful the stained-glass windows were.
But there’s so many other fantastic buildings I didn’t know about until I came to work in Coventry. The City of Culture is really going to make a different with that. We are seeing some fabulous buildings in the city being regenerated and put to good use. People who are interested in medieval things may have never been to St Mary’s Guildhall.
Really, I do think because the focus is going to be on Coventry it’s a super opportunity for us to raise our profile, and the Commonwealth Games in a more general way will spread the regeneration even further.
It does make a difference to people wanting to live or work in the city when there are these opportunities. Coventry’s cultural offering is so varied. It’s more than just Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon – despite how marvellous that is – there really is something for everyone.”
How big a contributor is the creative sector to the economy, and how is it set to grow?
“The creative sector is reeling a bit since the pandemic hit. But there was a CBI report in 2019: ‘Centre Stage: keeping the UK’s creative industries in the spotlight’ which described the UK’s creative sector as growing twice as fast as the UK economy as a whole.
This creative giant was revealed, generating over £101bn for the UK economy and employing three million people.
One in eight new businesses in the Midlands region was a creative business.
But the sector, which was annually worth £10bn to the region, supporting 100,000 jobs pre-pandemic, is recovering quickly.”
What role will City of Culture have in aiding the renewal of the arts and creative sector?
“There are some creative industries that have been able to carry on during the pandemic, like publishing, but of course the performing arts, music and drama, and film have suffered a lot.
My own feeling is that we will see come roaring back and people having been deprived of it are going to be extra keen to go to the theatre and go to the cinemas.
A lot of creative businesses have been very intelligent. The Orchestra of the Swan (based in Stratford) has been recording remote digital concerts for free and while this is a remarkable public service you are not going to earn as much money as performing live and touring.
There are real difficulties to survive. You can see that with all of the big players and small companies like Coventry’s Theatre Absolute – an extremely innovative company at the forefront of community theatre.
The government has come forward with some money to support infrastructure. But I think things will come back and there will be super-charged demand because people have not had these experiences for such a long time.”
What opportunities are there for businesses to contribute to the creative sector?
“There are many opportunities. A big part of Coventry winning the City of Culture bid was that local businesses themselves decided willing to contribute and that enthusiasm and community spirit was very attractive to the judges.
One of the wonderful things about Coventry is that it does pull together as a city.
I think UK City of Culture is an important investment. I believe there are nine cities in the running for the next one which supports that it is a good thing, even though it is a long and expensive process. There’s a long report on the impact City of Culture on Hull and my impression is that there has been a significant legacy, I think it also creates a positive self-image.
We will see a big increase in people coming to Coventry, not just in the City of Culture year itself but afterwards. After the 2012 Olympics, in 2013 and 2014 London was rammed because people had seen it on the telly. This is the effect it is going to have.”