Cultural Metropolis revisions

Plenary on 2014-07-16
Session date: 
July 16, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture


Why did you choose to update rather than replace or revise Cultural Metropolis? Can we expect further policy developments before the Mayoral election in 2016?


Answer for Cultural Metropolis revisions

Answer for Cultural Metropolis revisions

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

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  The update is not to replace the Cultural Metropolis, it is an update, it is a narrative explaining what has been achieved so far and what further actions we will take.  The policies set out in the Cultural Metropolis, which was published in 2010, are still the same policies.  We have not changed those.  There is a technical legal point I could make about the Cultural Strategy, which is distinct from the other Mayoral strategies, in that we are not obliged to revise the strategy if the policies remain the same, whereas with the other strategies I believe that is different.  The legal advice, however, was that we not have to spend the money and take two years to do an extensive consultation if our policies remain the same.  I was very keen that we primarily update the cultural section on all the things that we had said that we would do and that we have done, and this was the best way of doing that. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  I think there is the further issue around why you did not consult the Assembly on the new actions in the strategy, because, although it is an update, there are some new actions in there.  Was there any particular reason that you chose not to involve the Assembly at all in the updating of the strategy? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We chose not to do the formal full public consultation because we were not revising the strategy.  It was not a deliberate choice to exclude the Assembly;  we decided not to do a full public consultation because we did not want to revise the whole strategy. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  There was therefore very limited consultation around the changes then?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We were not required to do any consultation; however we talked to the cultural sector through our group, through meetings.  We have regular meetings and round tables with different parts of the cultural sector all the time.  We made them aware that we were doing this work and that we were planning to publish an account of the things that we had done so far. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  What is the continuing role of the London Cultural Strategy Group? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It remains a statutory group.  It has been chaired by Iwona Blazwick since 2008.  They continue to advise us on the shaping of the strategy, the delivery.  They read a draft of this report before it was published and fed back comments on it. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Is it correct that the London Cultural Strategy Group has not met since late last year?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  No, it met about a month ago. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  OK, I think the minutes are not publicly available yet. 

Will the update to the Cultural Metropolis feed in to other strategies in the future, such as tourism? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.  We mention in this report that we will be publishing a plan in the late autumn on what we can do to support the role of culture in promoting tourism. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  One of the things that struck me in Cultural Metropolis, were the figures from the Taking Part survey, which I think were alluded to earlier, showing the difference in cultural participation in different London boroughs.  The most striking was in Kensington and Chelsea where the percentage of over-16s who had engaged in the arts three times or more over a 12-month period is up to 66.2%, but in Newham, it was just 28.8%.  That is despite Newham being one of the Olympic boroughs, and you indicated that the Olympics were a big driving force behind increased cultural activity.  This is the biggest disparity anywhere in the country.  What does the strategy do to tackle the drivers of unequal access? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  A large priority in the strategy is about culture in education, promoting access to culture through schools, where we know that most young people who do not have a traditional exposure to culture in their homes are able to at least experience it at school.  Wwe have launched a number of initiatives through our education programme and it works very closely with the cultural team here at the GLA to try to support better teaching in cultural subjects.  Through our London Schools Excellence Fund we have supported two very large projects across London to support music education, alongside all the other things that we do on music education, which I am sure you are aware of. 

We have also initiated a project called the London Curriculum, which was launched last week at the Museum of London. The London Curriclum is primarily designed to help teachers to teach their subjects by using London as their inspiration.  Through those teaching resources, we have provided information about cultural institutions, websites and materials that they can access, for example, the Museum of London, which has been involved in the project.  We think that through those kinds of initiatives we can do a lot to reach young people who would not ordinarily have access to what is going on.

In general, there has been a considerable move from arts organisations to move in and reach out to those areas. The Olympic Park is a very good example where the Legacy List, which is the charity of the Olympic Park, is doing a lot with local schools to bring them into the Park and show them the public artworks that are on display.  We have the Fourth Plinth School Awards.  A lot is being done, however, we have to be realistic that these things take time.  Kensington and Chelsea is a much richer borough where children are more likely to grow up in a household where there will be books and chances to visit art galleries with their parents.  Therefore there is a natural disparity, which we have to try to overcome. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Since the strategy was initially launched in 2010, a number of organisations that fed into this area are no longer in existence, including: Business Link; the London Development Agency (LDA); and the London Skills and Employment Board.  What is your assessment that the loss of these organisations and further cuts from the Arts Council will have on the sector? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  In some cases, the changes have been very good and I would argue that the transition from the LDA to the London Enterprise Panel has been a positive thing.  It is now able to direct funding in a way that is targeted at areas of need.  The GLA has taken on a number of the cultural programmes that were originally funded through the LDA and we now directly fund the British Fashion Council, Film London, etc.  We therefore have a closer working relationship with those organisations.  I think that the sector has recovered from the various changes and the speed at which they are taking place and therefore we are in a reasonable position. 

In terms of funding cuts, in the last investment round that the Arts Council announced on 1 July 2014, there have been some casualties, undoubtedly there have been a number of organisations that have had their funding cut.  The large majority, however, have seen a standstill in their funding and I do think that is something of an achievement considering the climate, and the Arts Council have worked very hard to try, as much as possible, to create some stability in the arts sector, certainly for the organisations that it funds.  It is a different story at local authority level.  Local authorities, sadly, are making choices and some of them are cutting their arts projects. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  The 2010 Cultural Metropolis particularly identified the threat of the displacement of artists associated with the Olympic Games.  Can you tell us about the monitoring that you or others have undertaken of this threat?  As I represent Hackney, I would also add in there the threat that there was to the loss of creative space, because there was great movement of whole sectors of creatives to enable the Games to happen.  Have you been following this, given that it was identified as a threat in 2010? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.  Just to take the Olympic Park first, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) has commissioned a piece of research looking at the need for studio space in the area.  As you know, Hackney Wick has a really remarkable concentration of artists’ studios, it is probably the largest number of artists in any one area in the whole of Europe, and therefore it is very important for the cultural ecology of the city.  The LLDC has commissioned this research and I think it intends to publish in the late summer/early autumn.  It is already looking at a number of the initial recommendations, for example, ensuring that there is artist studio space in the masterplanning for the surrounding area.  One of the organisations on the Park, Here East, which is in the former International Broadcast Centre, has some provision for creative workspace, which will I think be quite an important catalyst for the wider Park in general.  That is the Olympic Park, and the LLDC are very mindful of how the regeneration has an impact on artists and has displaced them. 

Across London more generally, we have also commissioned a piece of work looking at the need for studio provision.  We know that there is a very long waiting list to access studios.  A number of artists  just cannot find affordable workspace and a number of the studio spaces are being closed down, either because they are being taken over by developers and therefore being redeveloped into residential, or for a number of other reasons.  We are therefore looking at areas where we could work with local boroughs to encourage provision and then try to encourage artists to take up that provision.  It is not that there is not space in London, however it is not in areas where artists are at the moment living, and there has to be an encouragement that artists might be willing to move and, where they are not willing to move, to try and preserve space in certain areas where we think it is really vital to local ecology.

We cannot stop London from developing, I have always said this, we cannot insist on preserving parts of the city in aspic for the sake of one group.  Nevertheless, we can be intelligent about working with developers and boroughs, to say, “If you have a very strong artist sector here, it is worth holding on to, they bring a huge amount to an area”.  In some cases, for example, developers have worked quite actively with studio providers to integrate studio planning into their bigger developments, and groups like Cathedral Group and Grosvenor Estates are talking to us about how they can do more of that. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  You talk about there being space, but not where artists are.  You know absolutely that it is about a hub and that artists like to work together, particularly around fashion or their own speciality.  Am I to understand then, that you are going to continue to have conversations with boroughs and businesses outside developers, with the sector itself, to ensure that whatever plans or strategies come on-stream, that their needs are going to be featured? 

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

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  The feasibility study that the Mayor promised, are you saying that the LLDC work that is ongoing now -- 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  There are two studies.  The LLDC is about to publish one, but we have commissioned another -- 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  The feasibility study that was promised in 2010, which I have looked for and cannot find, is that the one you have just commissioned? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes, we held off from commissioning it earlier because the LLDC was doing its work, and we wanted to see how the consultants and the research went, and then we decided to develop our own brief for the wider city.  It made sense to wait and see how theirs had gone so that we could learn the lessons from it in order to then do our own study.

We have not stood still, however, we have been talking to developers and we have had events, we and meetings with artist studio groups; we are still actively working with that constituency. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  In the new document, I am rather surprised that there is no mention of the British Library, which is a resource for all parts of the country and around the world, and in particular your document, at pages 45-55, refers to the importance of the creative industries in London.  Nevertheless, there is no reference to the British Library, which is one of the richest and probably the most important resource for creative practitioners in London, if not the country as a whole.  20,000 creative users of the reading rooms; authors, writers, film-makers, artists, designers, theatre and performing arts, and the library has an unparalleled collection of literature, journalism, art, sound, music, all the rest of it, and gives proper practical support through the Business and Intellectual Property (IP) Centre.  If you had consulted before you produced this document that is the sort of thing that could have been fed in.  My concern is, just by doing it off your own back, you have potentially missed a lot of important sources of information that could have enriched the new document and drawn attention to some of the facilities that are available around London for people like those in the creative industries. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We did consult for the Cultural Strategy.  The Cultural Strategy was published in 2010.  This is an update to the Cultural Strategy. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I am talking about this update. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We did a large consultation -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  You keep referring back to the 2010 document and really that has become an excuse for not consulting on the new 2014 document.  The 2014 document you say is an update, fair enough, however I am talking about the 2014 document and there is no reference in there to the British Library.  Although you refer to the creative industries, and quite rightly you do so, you do not talk, for example, about the facilities available at the British Library, which would be an important flag-up for people in that particular line of business. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  There are probably a number of cultural organisations we were not able to mention.  It does not mean that they are not important or we do not talk to them or we are not aware of them.  I know the British Library well.  I spent hours of my life working there.  It is not because we do not recognise or know that they exist.  The public consultation for the 2010 document was extensive and all the cultural organisations were invited to respond to the consultation. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I am not talking about 2010; I am talking about 2014 and the update, and there is no reference in the update, is there, to the British Library?  That is a fact. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  No, there is no reference to the British Library in the update. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  No, and I think that is a mistake.  The other thing you could have referred to about the British Library, for example, pages 75-78 you talk about involvement with London schools, the British Library have an important schools project.  This spring they have the scientific discovery day with, for example, a school for deaf children in St Pancras, they recently ran the after-school book clubs for kids from secondary schools, led by famous authors.  They launched their 2014 reading challenge.  If you are talking about working with schools, again, you are ignoring, in the new document, the very important work, that institutions like the British Library, a national flagship institution, is doing, are you not? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  All I can say is it would have been a very long document if I had put down all the good work of all the cultural organisations of significance in London and we did not do that, this is not an encyclopaedia of everything great that is happening in London in the cultural sector.  It is primarily an update on what the Mayor intends to do, and it does talk about cultural organisations, however as examples. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  The Mayor seems to be ignoring a lot of very important institutions in this document.  Of course you cannot put down every single project; however some of the big national flagship things that go on in London are omitted.

I think it is important that national institutions are of great significance nationally and internationally. 

Archaeology is one of the important issues in London for tourism, and lay and indeed professional and commercial activity.  The word “archaeology” does not appear once in the document, does it? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It is in the Cultural Strategy of 2010. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I am talking about the new document.  It is not referred to at all, is it? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It is not. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  No.  Why? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  That is because it is in the Cultural Strategy of 2010.  This is an update on the work we have done and the work we will continue to do. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Therefore you have done nothing on archaeology since 2010 then?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We fund the Museum of London, which has an extensive archaeology service for developers -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  The document refers to the Museum of London.  It does not talk about its archaeological work; it talks about its work with school kids. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  No, it probably does not talk about its archaeology work, you are right, however it talks about the Museum of London extensively.  I am afraid this document does not cover, as I said, every single good thing that happens.  It does not even mention every single national organisation that is based in London because -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  No, it does not, does it? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  -- then it really would be a very long document if it did. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Not necessarily.  For example, archaeology is important to a lot of people who are engaged in it on a lay basis, as a recreational activity.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We have met with archaeologists. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  There is no reference in here to community archaeology or the Thames Discovery Programme, for example, is there? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Quite honestly, we have not done a huge amount in that area and we have not prioritised it as an area.

Andrew Dismore AM:  Exactly, you have not done, and maybe you should have done. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am very open to discussing that with you, or with anyone else who wants to come forward, if they think that the Mayor can genuinely add value.  Of course there is a limit to the particular programmes that we can support just financially and resource wise. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Well the Thames Discovery Programme is an important one, working on the Thames foreshore, looking at what is available.  It is not just mudlarks, it is a great activity for kids, there are also people doing serious archaeology there as well.  That archaeology is under threat from the river itself and it could be supported by the Mayor, could it not? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  In our public consultation for the 2010 document, we did put archaeology in there for that reason. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  However you did not in 2014; that is the point, and as you said you have done nothing on that project.  Why is there no mention of the role that churches play in promoting music, art and architecture in the new document?  Do you not think our historic churches are important?  Not mentioned at all. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We did not mention synagogues or mosques either, so we probably did not mention all of the cultural organsiations that we could have done. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  That is not the point.  We have the Wren churches, for example, in the City.  We have the historic Victorian churches.  We have the places like St John Smith’s Square or St Martin-in-the-Fields, major contributions to musical culture in the country and in London. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We did talk about music being -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  These facilities are not mentioned at all, are they? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  No. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  No.  If you had consulted on the 2014 document, you might have put them in. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  This document does not set out a fixed plan that cannot be changed, if in the next month somebody approaches me and asks us to work on a project or a programme for a particular group in London, there is nothing in the strategy that means that we cannot do that.  As you know -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  However you are not promoting it. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  As you know, if you know the work of the Mayor’s Office, we are very reactive to -- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  One of the important contributions to London’s economy is tourism

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  If I could finish, I could just explain. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  All these things are important to tourism, however, you do not recognise how important the churches are in the music and arts and architecture they contribute to tourism, you do not mention the national organisations, their contribution to tourism, do you? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  As I said, our doors are not closed to organisations who wish to work with us.  We have supported and advocated for projects in a number of areas, including archaeology and churches.  Our Fourth Plinth exhibition of marquettes is in St Martin-in-the-Fields, it is a church, we maybe have not highlighted that in the strategy, because it is intended to be a short document.  We certainly have not excluded them, however, and I think that we are a very responsive organisation.  If organisations want to ask us to work on things together, generally we do that, we have a reputation for doing that.

James Cleverly AM:  If it helps, and I do not want to put words in another Member’s mouth, however I think what Assembly Member Dismore is trying to ask is, why have you not prioritised everything?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am delighted to have an opportunity to be talking about culture in front of this group, because I have not done so for a number of years, and if the way this document was published has caused enough irritation from people to think that it is worth spending an hour and a half talking about culture, I am delighted.