The Investing in Creativity session at the Capital West London Growth Summit discussed the value of investing in places designed for the creative industries – which provide nearly four in ten of West London’s jobs.
A key question that came up was how we value creativity – Sherry Dobbin, Managing and Cultural Director, Futurecity, asked the other panellists how they thought developers and investors could include metrics within their investment appraisals measuring how the creative sector contributes to the value generated by a development. She made a point on investment: “We need to change the attitude to investing in creativity. An investment of £1 in the creative sector brings £7 in tax revenues. We need to start flipping our thinking – a tiny investment in culture brings big benefits.”
The session was supported by YOO Capital, currently progressing a regeneration scheme at Olympia, and their Managing Director, Lloyd Lee, said in reply that it takes the right investor. “The reality is what you make of it, as an investor. London has a lot to offer.”
But it requires some bravery. “What would be the most profitable thing to do at Olympia? That would be to build offices. But just offices would make it a business park, and creative people would not want to go there. You have to be brave and take the decision to deliver something different”.
He encouraged all investors to look to include the community in their plans. “Investors don’t always embrace the community, but it is by doing this, addressing what people really need, that you will deliver a better return”.
“Olympia went from being a gem in 1886, to being something only open to the public for 6 months a year. We discovered the opportunity to open it to the public 365 days a year, through adding workspace, restaurants, a theatre, and more.”
“You can’t gamble with other people’s money, that’s not responsible. But just as irresponsible is building a development which ignores its surroundings.
“There is a reason why people love coming to London – for the mix of culture and ingenuity which is open to all. The challenge is to adapt this in to a historic built environment, this is what makes is feel like it has so much character.”
He was optimistic about Olympia’s future. “We are now embarking on talks with a series of different creative businesses, we should be making a series of announcements over the coming months.”
Other partners are important of course. Lee continued: “We created a vision together with the Council that will deliver benefits for everyone. People in community leadership positions should engage with developers over what they want, it’s more likely to happen that way”.
Sian Alexander, Executive Director, Lyric Theatre, echoed this. She said: “This theatre is an example of partnership between the council, the developers, and the local community.”
Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader, LB Brent, also spoke about partnership: “Let’s create those partnerhips which deliver for people across our borough.”
He continued on to talk about Brent’s year as London’s Borough of Culture in 2020: “In 2020, we need to tap in to the value that the variety of cultures can bring, and make sure that everyone benefits. It’s about the opportunities round skills and social mobility. How can we use the infrastructure that we are creating to ensure that people can contribute to our society?”
Amar Dave, Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment, LB Brent, said their Borough of Culture bid had young people at the heart, and this was part of the reason it succeeded, and will be a strong focus for the year. Sian Alexander also spoke about the Lyric’s work with Young People: “This is at the heart of the Lyric. Our last redevelopment was focussed on their needs. We use the arts to help disadvantaged young people develop skills. Then, if they are interested, we have a talent development programme to help them develop sustainable careers in the creative sector. It’s working – two of the leads in Hamilton came from the Lyric – from Hammersmith to Hamilton!”
Brent’s year as Borough of Culture isn’t just a win for Brent, but for the whole of West London. It should maxinise the benefits across the sub-region, and there is an opportunity to join in for the private sector. As well as investment, the councils want involvement in skills development, engaging with young people, and the wider community.
The session also launched the Capital West London Creative Manifesto – a study of the sector in the sub-region, and a call for action, to keep West London as the world’s best location to be in the creative industries.