Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, is launching a “Culture strategy” for London, to cover the next 10 years. His draft plan, published last month, is a 170-page discussion document which has four main objectives: excellence, creativity, access and value, and underpinning all of these is the principle of diversity. Cynics might feel that Mr Livingstone is invoking all the politically-correct buzzwords.
The report assembles a wealth of data on culture in the capital. London’s cultural and creative sector generates revenue of over £25 billion ($40.4 billion) a year, providing more than 500,000 jobs. Other facts and figures show that the city has three World Heritage Sites, 150 scheduled monuments, “twice as many museums as Paris or New York”, 200 arts events every day, and more paper conservation studios than in the rest of Europe. In recent years over £600 million ($970 million) has been invested in London’s cultural facilities.
The report also draws attention to places where action is needed. On the cluster of museums in South Kensington, the report admits that “the environment around the individual museums is of very poor quality. There is considerable potential to develop this area by upgrading pedestrian access and making other environmental improvements.”
The report is weaker in explaining what the mayor can actually do, since his budget for culture is extremely limited. His main role therefore has to be as a coordinator, cajoling the myriad organisations which run London’s cultural activities into working together. Some leading figures have already supported the mayor’s initiative. Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota was a member of the Cultural Strategy Group; Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, and National Gallery director Charles Saumarez Smith supported the document at its launch.
Mr Livingstone’s report is being scrutinised by the Greater London Assembly and a public consultation exercise will start in May, leading to the publication of the final plan later this year. For copies of the draft report, % +44 (0)20 7983 4777.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The key to the mayor’s plan is “diversity”'