Merseyside Maritime Museum enjoyed record-breaking success as part of Liverpool's year as the Capital of Culture
The cultural sector and tourism industry can take the lead in Britain’s economic recovery, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham have insisted.
In a tour to mark the success of the city's stint as European Capital of Culture, Mr Brown said Liverpool “shows what can be done for the future”.
“With our great cultural heritage, historic monuments, ability to project culture that's based on the English language, sporting achievements and functions, willingness to be creative and innovative…we have this huge opportunity for the future,” enthused the Prime Minister.
“This is a great industry, millions of jobs depend on it and it creates a huge amount of wealth for our country. I believe it can be even greater in the future.”
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham added: “In January 2008, I was handed the kind of opportunity in life that is an unimaginable twist of fate – to be Culture Secretary in the year when my family’s home city took the spotlight as European Capital of Culture.
“Back in the beginning, it was the members of the judging panel – and the then Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell – who saw Liverpool’s hidden cultural depth and believed in its people’s capacity to surprise and prove the cynics wrong.
“Economic difficulty has been the backdrop to the year. That it has been a success is a tribute to all concerned, but also makes the point that is my central argument – that culture and creativity are part of the answer to tough economic times."
Mr Burnham pledged to “build the kind of national and international ambition throughout the regions that Liverpool had shown,” proposing the selection of a City of Culture every four years in the UK, which would host events including the Turner Prize and the Brit Awards.
“By receiving national recognition as a City of Culture, every city in the UK could be given an opportunity to bring out the creative skills, talent and enthusiasm of its people,” said Mr Burnham, who has appointed a panel to begin the process with a view to launching the scheme in 2011.
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council welcomed the news. “The government’s recognition that culture is part of the answer to tough economic times is right and very reassuring,” responded MLA Chief Executive Roy Clare.
“The 1,800 accredited museums, 3,500 public libraries and 2,000 archive collections across the UK play a vital role in communities. These historic and civic buildings, their collections, and the valuable services they offer are key to the tourism industry but also an important part of everyone’s daily lives.
“They help bridge the social divide and, particularly in times of recession, are places that offer a sense of well-being - enriching people’s lives, informing, educating and helping people acquire new skills and get new jobs.”
Mr Burnham recalled the Bilbao model – a notion that culture could regenerate run-down industrial areas – as a symbolic plan, and highlighted cultural successes from Hay-on-Wye to the Manchester International Festival and Salford’s Lowry Centre as examples of cultural investment galvanising the country.
“Regeneration led by culture and cultural projects can be the most successful and durable – unlocking investment and stimulating a new creative economy,” he said. “This is why it is important to sustain investment in culture and the arts.”