Progress and Future Goals

Plenary on 2014-07-16
Session date: 
July 16, 2014
Question By: 
Stephen Knight
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture


The provision of cultural opportunities in London’s outer boroughs and the improvement of the accessibility to London’s cultural workforce were two priorities in the Mayor’s 2010 Cultural Strategy. What progress have you made since then, and what are the future goals, for both priorities?


Answer for Progress and Future Goals

Answer for Progress and Future Goals

Answered By: 
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture

Stephen Knight AM: Culture in outer London was a big focus in the 2010 strategy.  It appears there is far less in the update this year on outer London, can you tell us why that is? Indeed, in 2010 there was an Outer London Borough Cultural Group set up, which only lasted a year.  What is going to be done now to engender more cultural activity and more cultural spending in outer London?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  There is not less of a focus on outer London; it is still a big issue, it comes up at the London Cultural Strategy Group, which is chaired by Iwona Blazwick [OBE, Director of Whitechapel Gallery], and a number of things have happened as a result of the strategy.  Primarily, the Mayor’s regeneration funding through the Outer London Fund has kick-started a number of cultural projects; about 10% of that funding has gone towards projects that have a large cultural element.  That is to use culture to enliven high streets, town centres, in outer London.  I think as well as funding individual projects, it is about trying to create a culture within boroughs of appreciation of the role that culture can play in the work that they do. 

Stephen Knight AM:  We know the outer London boroughs spend a lot less on culture than inner London boroughs and we also know that the engagement of particularly young Londoners in outer London with cultural activity is far less than in inner London.  Do you see that changing as a result of this strategy? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I think we have to be realistic.  Some boroughs will prioritise culture, partly because of the organisations in the borough.  It is noticeable that there are never any applications from certain boroughs to the Arts Council, for instance.  Both Bromley and Bexley, I believe, this year did not have any applications.  It is partly a result of the fact that there are not as many cultural organisations in those areas. 

Stephen Knight AM:  Partly, some of the cultural organisations in those areas have lost their Arts Council funding in recent years.  Places like the Orange Tree Theatre; it is just about to lose its Arts Council funding, for example.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):   There are certain areas in London that have a higher number of cultural organisations and certain boroughs will prioritise culture and will give it more funding.  Although we can advocate and argue that culture plays an important role, I think we have to just recognise that.  I think we are making a difference.

Stephen Knight AM:  Therefore you think there is no way of addressing it? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  As I mentioned, the Outer London Fund is about trying to influence boroughs to recognise the importance that culture plays in their regeneration and their planning.  It has made a difference in that respect.  We have also worked with some of the theatres in outer London to create a touring network called Circulate [an outdoor arts touring project], which was created as a result of the Olympics and Paralympic Games,  to encourage better sharing and better collaboration for those theatres and organisations.  It has made a big difference to how those organisations operate and the confidence and ability they have to attract audiences. 

Through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we co-ordinated and funded the largest ever arts festival around London and t outer London, called Showtime, which worked in all 33 boroughs and attracted large audiences, half of whom had never really experienced outdoor art before. 

Stephen Knight AM:  We know that in the culture and arts sector we have a workforce that is very white and very male-dominated.  The data we have on this, is four years out of date, and I hope you will commit to updating the workforce survey that was done four years ago.  I do not, however, think we have seen any evidence that it has improved dramatically in the last four years.  We also know that one way of improving access to the workforce would be to drive apprenticeships.  Apprenticeships in the cultural sector are very low, however, and have been falling in the last two years.  What can you say about the way this strategy can drive more apprenticeships into the cultural sector in London? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We work with the key agencies who are trying to promote apprenticeships in the cultural sector and it is challenging because of the nature of the sector.  It is composed of a large number of small and medium enterprises (SME) who we know traditionally have not been very good at promoting apprenticeships; it is much harder for them.  Therefore, Creative & Cultural Skills and the national apprenticeship organisations are working with the cultural sector to do that and we have supported them.  We have a subgroup from the Cultural Strategy Group in London to work on that.  It is chaired by Pauline Tambling [Chief Executive Officer, Creative & Cultural Skills].

During the Olympics, we ran a flagship apprenticeship scheme called Culture Squad 2012, which brought together a very small number of apprentices in cultural organisations as part of the Olympic Cultural Festival.  The idea was to promote the idea of apprenticeships to a wider audience, therefore there are things that we can do to influence and advocate.  We are not in a position to be able to fund apprenticeships ourselves, however there is funding available from national Government and we encourage organisations to take that up.  We have also worked with the museum sector -- 

Stephen Knight AM:  Can I turn to how much we encourage, because obviously as a major funder, in some cases we must have some levers to pull in terms of ensuring that people do take on apprenticeships in their organisations? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We are a funder of certain organisations like the British Fashion Council, which had been running, as a result of our funding, a programme on apprenticeships.  Where we do provide funding, we do encourage organisations to take on apprenticeships as part of their programme.  Film London also have an extensive training and apprenticeships programme.

Stephen Knight AM:  We have an input into the Arts Council programme and decisions as well.  Are we using our influence there to ensure that arts organisations drive apprenticeships?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I do not know whether you can give me a commitment that the data, the survey that was done four years ago, will be updated to give us an idea of progress in this area? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am sorry, I do not know which survey you are referring to. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I am referring to the survey, which has the London’s Creative Workforce, which was a February 2010 survey, which showed the representation of women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  A GLA Economics survey? 

Stephen Knight AM:  Yes, that is right, GLA Economics.  Can you commission an update of that?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I can talk to GLA Economics about doing that. 

Stephen Knight AM:  I think that would be very helpful.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We are commissioning with the GLA Economics team a survey on the general economic picture of the creative industries and the value added by this sector and I will check if workforce is included in that. 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Arguably, compared to inner London, outer London has assets of equal cultural value in their own right.  What can the GLA do to encourage tourists and Londoners to look outside central London and engage in the diverse cultural experiences offered by this capital city? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  As we have outlined in our strategy, there are a number of things that we do.  We are working with London & Partners to ensure that, as far as possible, they promote the wider offer of London.  That is why we are developing a cultural tourism strategy, which will be launched in the late autumn.  The idea of that strategy is to show the diversity that London has to offer; not just the zone one, big well-known cultural attractions like the Tower of London and the British Museum, but also some of the smaller, more independent organisations, activities and events that happen.  We are working closely with London & Partners on developing that plan and talking with our London Cultural Strategy Group and the wider sector about how we promote the attractions. 

The GLA runs the largest events programme in the country, which is now attended by around 3 million people so we can use our funding, in some cases, to support events in outer London. We fund the London Mela, we fund events in east London in the Olympic Park and so on. 

We also support and promote festivals and events that are happening around the rest of the city through social media and marketing.  We also encourage festivals that we fund to do more work in outer London.  For three years we funded the London Jazz Festival to work specifically with venues in outer London, because we knew that they would struggle to do the programming by themselves.  As much as possible, therefore, we are trying to use our influence and our leverage to promote what happens in outer London. 

One of the areas where outer London is very strong is heritage and we have a very good relationship with the Heritage Lottery Fund.  We make the case for outer London to them on a regular basis and I think that they have been exemplary in supporting activities there.