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A pain in the arts – culture in the capital under threat

07 March 2017
  • London is home to 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres.[3]
  • 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit.[4]
  • The creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2 per cent), with almost a third of creative jobs in the UK based in London.[5]

However regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, can put the capital’s cultural offer at risk.

  • Between 2007 and 2015, London lost 35 per cent of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 spaces to just 88.[6]
  • Some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019 (30 per cent of the current provision).[7]

The Mayor of London has made the promotion of London’s cultural offer one of his top priorities.

Regeneration is intrinsically linked to rising property prices, forcing some communities out of areas their energies helped to revive. The London Assembly Regeneration Committee investigation into culture and regeneration found:

  • There are tensions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents and communities, as people are priced out due to rising rents and “rocketing property costs”.
  • Certain groups are marginalised, which leads to homogenisation of the type of residents in an area and the culture on offer.
  • Industrial land and buildings are being lost to housing developments. Developers may include live/work space in new developments, but often such schemes are unaffordable and not utilised as workspace.

The Regeneration Committee report ‘Creative tensions: Optimising the benefits of culture through regeneration’ published today, makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor to protect London’s cultural and creative offer.


The Mayor should:

  • Develop a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital.
  • Push for the new London Plan to include an affordable cultural workspace policy that ensures there is affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
  • Carry out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors. Better quality data on culture in London is essential.
  • Urgently pilot a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, which includes both affordable housing and workspace co-located together.
  • Protect not just iconic venues in London, but also smaller, grassroots venues for their contribution.

Navin Shah AM, Chair of the Regeneration Committee, said:

“London is globally-renowned as a city of culture. From grassroots music venues in Tottenham to small theatres in Richmond, it is diverse, unique and spread right across London.

Culture has the power to regenerate places, but due to rising land values, running costs and reduced public funding, cultural venues and communities are increasingly threatened.

Regeneration must also protect and deliver culture. The Mayor has a key role to play but we also need to make sure that local communities truly lie at the heart of all cultural regeneration projects.”

Follow us @LondonAssembly and tweet about the report using #AssemblyRegeneration or #creativeLondon

Notes to editors

  1. ‘Creative tensions: Optimising the benefits of culture through regeneration report’ (attached).
  2. The Regeneration Committee received 123 written submissions from artists and organisations.
  3. London: The Global Powerhouse, GLA, February 2016
  4. Take a Closer Look. A Cultural Tourism Vision for London, GLA, January 2015
  5. A City for All Londoners, GLA, October 2016, p83; Creative Industries: Focus on Employment, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, June 2015, p12
  6. London’s Grassroots Music Venues: Rescue Plan, GLA, October 2015
  7. Artists’ Workspace Study, GLA, September 2014, p5
  8. View a short video about the report here
  9. Navin Shah AM, Chair of the Regeneration Committee is available for interview. See contact details below.
  10. The Regeneration Committee.
  11. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.


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