The Lowry is proof that investing in the arts is a catalyst to regeneration

Conceived around the millennium, The Lowry has brought life to Salford Quays – providing a cornerstone for £1.4bn of investment and proving that regeneration through the arts does work.

As someone who grew up in Salford, I followed The Lowry’s inaugural season in 2000 with great interest. A stunning international programme, including The Paris Opera Ballet, the National Theatre and a large-scale community project, took to the stage. During my childhood, I had witnessed the Quays go from one of the UK’s most vibrant docks into an industrial wasteland. It was remarkable that Salford City Council, Arts Council England and other partners had the bravery and vision to commission such an ambitious millennium project, investing £116m of public money in a state of the art venue on what, despite limited private investment, remained a largely derelict site.

By the time I returned to my home city as Chief Executive of The Lowry in 2002, the catalysing effect of this multi-million pound investment was starting to gain momentum. The Lowry built a bridge across the water to Trafford, connecting the Quays to accommodate the new Imperial War Museum North. Over the next decade, we would be part of a substantial growth in business and employment opportunities on the Quays, as well as a 30 per cent growth in the number of residents. By 2011, the infrastructure and opportunity now in place on the Quays was recognised in the best way possible with the opening of MediaCityUK. With international brands including the BBC and ITV now making their home in Salford, the Quays took its place as one of the world’s foremost cultural and media destinations. This vibrant landscape houses hundreds of emerging creative SMEs, a growing retail offering and a state of the art campus for the University of Salford. Since opening, The Lowry has been a cornerstone to a further £1.4bn worth of public and private investment in the Quays.

What Salford City Council recognised all those years ago is that investment in the arts has the power to catalyse regeneration. But they didn’t just look at physical regeneration, buildings and infrastructure, it was about social regeneration: changing the ambitions and outlook of communities in the city.

On 27 November 2013, Beyond the Arts: Economic and Wider Impacts of The Lowry and its Programmes was published – an independent report by New Economy into the financial, artistic and social impact of The Lowry. The results surprised even us.

The Lowry receives annual funding from Arts Council England and Salford City Council and, in the current financial environment, not only is this funding all the more crucial, but we have to ensure this investment goes further than ever. Only 11 per cent of The Lowry’s budget comes from public funding, while the report shows an average of 40 per cent across regularly funded arts organisations. The Lowry is also able to have a substantial economic impact both regionally and nationally, showing £29m in GVA contributed to the economy every year whilst supporting 533 full time equivalent jobs. And possibly more importantly, each year The Lowry engages with around 35,000 people, especially young people, from the communities around us.

Like many inner-city areas, Salford has its challenges. But Beyond the Arts shows that investment in culture in the city has provided opportunities that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The Lowry is an example of an imaginative city council using public funding to leverage significant economic and social benefit for the City, the people of Salford and our region.

Julia Fawcett OBE is Chief Executive of The Lowry

The view outside The Lowry at night.
Getty
Show Hide image

Richard Dawkins: We need a new party - the European Party

I was unqualified to vote in the EU referendum. So at least now we should hear from experts. 

It is just conceivable that Brexit will eventually turn out to be a good thing. I gravely doubt it, but I’m not qualified to judge. And that is the point. I wasn’t qualified to vote in the referendum. Nor were you, unless you have a PhD in economics or are an expert in a relevant field such as history. It’s grotesque that David Cameron, with the squalidly parochial aim of silencing the Ukip-leaning wing of his party, gambled away our future and handed it over to a rabble of ignorant voters like me.

I voted – under protest, because I never should have been asked to vote, but I did. In line with the precautionary principle, I knew enough to understand that such a significant, complex and intricate change as Brexit would drive a clumsy bull through hundreds of delicate china shops painstakingly stocked up over decades of European co-operation: financial agreements, manufacturing partnerships, international scholarships, research grants, cultural and edu­cational exchanges.

I voted Remain, too, because, though ­ignorant of the details, I could at least spot that the Leave arguments were visceral, emotional and often downright xenophobic. And I could see that the Remain arguments were predominantly rational and ­evidence-based. They were derided as “Project Fear”, but fear can be rational. The fear of a man stalked by a hungry polar bear is entirely different from the fear of a man who thinks that he has seen a ghost. The trick is to distinguish justified fear from irrational fear. Those who scorned Project Fear made not the slightest attempt to do so.

The single most shocking message conveyed during the referendum campaign was: “Don’t trust experts.” The British people are fed up with them, we were told. You, the voter, are the expert here. Despicable though the sentiment was, it unfortunately was true. Cameron made it true. By his unspeakable folly in calling the referendum, he promoted everyone to the rank of expert. You might as well call a nationwide plebiscite to decide whether Einstein got his algebra right, or let passengers vote on which runway the pilot should land on.

Scientists are experts only in their own limited field. I can’t judge the details of physics papers in the journal Nature, but I know that they’ve been refereed rigorously by experts chosen by an expert editor. Scientists who lie about their research results (and regrettably there are a few) face the likelihood that they’ll be rumbled when their experiments are repeated. In the world of science, faking your data is the cardinal sin. Do so and you’ll be drummed out of the profession without mercy and for ever.

A politician who lies will theoretically get payback at the next election. The trouble with Brexit is that there is no next election. Brexit is for keeps. Everyone now knows that the £350m slogan on the Brexit bus was a barefaced lie, but it’s too late. Even if the liars lose their seats at the next election (and they probably won’t), Brexit still means Brexit, and Brexit is irreversible. Long after the old people who voted Leave are dead and forgotten, the young who couldn’t be bothered to vote and now regret it will be reaping the consequences.

A slender majority of the British people, on one particular day in June last year when the polls had been going up and down like a Yo-Yo, gave their ill-informed and actively misled opinion. They were not asked what they wanted to get into, only what they wanted to get out of. They might have thought “Take back control” meant “Give control back to our sovereign parliament, which will decide the details”. Yes, well, look how that’s working out!

“The British people have spoken” has become an article of zealous faith. Even to suggest that parliament should have a little bitty say in the details is hysterically condemned as heresy, defying “the people”. British politics has become toxic. There is poison in the air. We thought that we had grown out of xenophobic bigotry and nationalistic jingoism. Or, at least, we thought it had been tamed, shamed into shutting its oafish mouth. The Brexit vote signalled an immediate rise in attacks on decent, hard-working Poles and others. Bigots have been handed a new licence. Senior judges who upheld the law were damned as “enemies of the people” and physically threatened.

Am I being elitist? Of course. What’s wrong with that? We want elite surgeons who know their anatomy, elite pilots who know how to fly, elite engineers to build safe bridges, elite athletes to win at the Olympics for Team GB, elite architects to design beautiful buildings, elite teachers and professors to educate the next generation and help them join the elite. In the same way, to decide the affairs of state, as we live in a representative democracy, we can at least hope to elect elite parliamentarians, guided and advised by elite, highly educated civil servants. Not politicians who abdicate their democratic responsibility and hand important decisions over to people like me.

What is to be done? Labour, the so-called opposition, has caved in to the doctrine of “the British people have spoken”. Only the Lib Dems and SNP are left standing. Unfortunately, the Lib Dem brand is tarnished by association with Cameron in the coalition.

Any good PR expert would prescribe a big makeover, a change of name. The “Euro­pean Party” would attract Labour voters and Labour MPs disillusioned with Jeremy Corbyn. The European Party would attract Europhile Tory MPs – and there are plenty of them. The European Party would attract a high proportion of the 48 per cent of us who voted Remain. The European Party would attract big donations. The European Party might not win the next election, but it would stand a better chance than Labour or the Lib Dems under their present name. And it would provide the proper opposition that we so sorely need.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition