Can ‘Culture’ Lead Regeneration?

Trying to disentangle ‘Culture’ and Regeneration is difficult, but the DCMS has published a Report which may help us to consider the issues more clearly.
Which comes first? Regeneration or ‘culture’?
The debate has now been going for some time, but a study by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) gives examples of how regeneration and culture interact from across the country – including several references to Liverpool as forthcoming European Capital of Culture, and to the experience of Glasgow, a previous Capital of Culture in 1990.
The study also tries to develop ways to measure the ‘real’ impact of culture on regeneration, and ‘to ensure that culture’s contribution to regeneration is maximised’.
Importantly, contributions to the debate have been invited not only from the experts, but also from others who are directly involved, whether they be arts practitioners or audiences, businesses big and small, or those living in communities in need of regeneration. Initial results of the consultation were published in early 2005.
The evidence currently available does not make it easy to demonstrate how far there are measurable direct effects on communities where cultural development and regeneration have occurred.
How can we measure the impact, positive or negative, of a development which raises expectations but in the end does not materialise? Does this promote interest in development anyway, or does it rather produce a cynical perception that everything is ‘hot air’? Is there a difference between Liverpool’s ill-fated Cloud, which will now not materialise, and the equally contentious Millennium Dome in London, which did? And how would we measure this?
Or how do we assess the long-term impact of an ‘artists’ quarter’, originally low-cost and ‘bohemian’, but now expensive to live in – and almost deserted because of this by the artists themselves, still surviving on low wages? Can we compare the experience of Islington-Hoxton in London, where this has already occurred, and, say, London Road in Liverpool, where it may yet happen?
And what about the impact of the arts on communities where there is little experience of formal culture as yet? Can visits by professional artists and performers – again as has happened alongside physical development such as the St Lukes Centre in London, and is now happening in for instance Liverpool’s Kensington area – help to raise the expectations of local children, and maybe also their elders? How would we tell?
Quality of life is not easily measured and answers to these questions are also not easy. But some pointers do exist.

Posted on October 12, 2005, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, Liverpool And Merseyside, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Alistair Carberry

    An interesting point is raised here in paragraph 3 of the above post….culture as a commodity surely can be provided. However, it is the implementation and management of such activities that dictate its success and indeed usefulness to the community.
    There is no doubt that the inclusion of the community in both the planning and execution of cultural installations is paramount to their success, however there needs to be continuing investment and monitoring of usage and opinion to ensure that cultural installations fulfill their potential.
    Local people cannot be left out of the decision making process otherwise the ‘culture’ will miss the point entirely – local culture is something that should be enhanced, not ignored.

  2. They go hand in hand, as they are born of the same creative and intellectual forces. If a place is beginning to ‘regenerate’ then it will regenerate across the board.
    Of course, if we limit our definition of either as the processes of the Business Park then we may never get anything at all. If however we wish to interpret ‘regeneration’ as the revival of activity that is improving quality of life, then they are inseperable.
    There is no such thing as ‘culture’ as a commodity that can be provided. Even if you bring in the Berlin Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphonietta it would only be ‘entertainment’. A vibrant culture is surely an environment where people engage and take part… no government dept or regen agency can provide this.
    We could be materially quite comfortable, but as a society be quite philistine… on the other hand some of the ‘richest’, most culturally dynamic and creative communities are incredibly poor in financial terms.
    You usually also find that if a community is culturally active then most will be ‘doing something’ in other fields also, i.e. these communities will also be extremely enterprising, which eventually generates financial wealth.

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