The Value of Arts and Culture in Place-shaping

This study, commissioned by Arts Council England and conducted by Wavehill Ltd., investigates the relationship between arts and culture, and successful place management. It highlights a series of benefits of a strong cultural offer including community cohesion, people and business attraction, citizen wellbeing, and the health of the high street.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This study – The Value of Arts and Culture in Place-shaping – has been commissioned by Arts Council England and written by Wavehill Ltd. in 2019. The document looks at if and how the culture and arts offer in a place has an impact on its economic and social prosperity, and on shaping its identity.

This research was commissioned before COVID-19, however, the findings of this study are applicable for post COVID-19 recovery and transformation. An attractive - yet safe - culture and arts offer, brings visitors to high streets and town centres, and this is of vital importance in recovering from Covid-19.

This study combines questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews with adult citizens, business managers, and place leaders across different cities and towns in England. It is concerned with their perspective and experiences when it comes to the culture and arts offer in their places.

This research finds a series of benefits that a strong art and culture offer has in creating places that are desirable to live in and visit. First, the arts and culture create place attachment, communities coming together and people feeling integrated, improved personal wellbeing, and they help in attracting and retaining people to live and work. This offer also attracts creative and young talent, as well as encourages creative businesses to set up in the area as it influences businesses location decisions. Furthermore, arts and culture shape place branding and reputation through media coverage of cultural events, as this helps in putting places ‘on the map’, but also through people’s positive experiences and recommendations. Finally, an arts and culture offer has direct benefits for the high street. It encourages visitors by offering unique experiences, it has the potential to invite visitors of different socio-demographic groups, and people who come to a cultural event are likely to make use of the retail and non-retail offer of the high street in that particular place.

Examples of cultural and arts offer discussed in this study are diverse and include opera, films, photograph or art exhibitions, street art, musical events, dance, circus, comedy, etc. This study also explores what socio-demographic factors influence the choice of different cultural and artistic activities.

Arts Council England have created a series of dashboards that bring together a range of data sources into useful and interactive tools. Through these dashboards, different users (citizens, local authorities, BIDs, etc.) can explore, by geographical location, investment in arts and culture, adult engagement with this offer, and economic contribution of this industry. These dashboards allow exploring, for example, number of visits to museums or libraries; or investment in different cultural and art activities (i.e. whether more investment goes to museums, theatres, or libraries); as well as employment, income and expenditure generated by this industry. Through the dashboards, this data can be interrogated for a specific area, and how it compares to national average.

These dashboards can be explored here: