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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Use culture to revive town and city centres – mayor

Culture should be used to coax people back into struggling town and city centres, West Yorkshire’s mayor has said.

Tracy Brabin said high streets across the region had been affected by the shift to working from home after the Covid pandemic.

But speaking at a scrutiny committee on Wednesday, she urged local councils to put on more exhibitions and events on to support shops and businesses.

She highlighted Leeds’ dinosaur trail, which ran across the summers of 2021 and 2022, as a successful example of this.

The 2021 edition is estimated was estimated to have raked in around £2m for the local economy.

“Culture is the thing that brings in families, over and above retail,” Mayor Brabin told the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s (WCYA’s) economy scrutiny committee.

“It’s a challenge for all mayors and city leaders, but seeing some culture is the way we do that (bring more people in).

“Bringing in events for people to come and enjoy is how we support retail, bars, restaurants and so on.”

West Yorkshire has a thriving arts programme scheduled across the coming years. Leeds is currently having its own year of culture, while Kirklees is hosting a Year of Music.

Wakefield and Calderdale will each hold their own creative programmes in 2024, before Bradford becomes the official UK City of Culture in 2025.

Ms Brabin said WYCA was helping to subsidise events across the region, given people now have less to spend on going out and enjoying themselves.

She added: “It’s a really confusing picture, because the creative sector’s been hit economically, but we’re investing more in events and entertainment and the numbers of people who experience culture are going up.”

“We’ve seen an erosion of the creative sector and with the cost-of-living crisis people have less spare money in their pockets, so they’re not going out to enjoy entertainment (as much).

“We can fund programmes so that they’re free entry, whether it’s public art, sculptures, opportunities for dance, drama, music and festivals and so on, so that everyone has a chance of a cultural life.”

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