London confirmed as ‘world cultural leader’

Published April 17, 2008

A new report ‘London – A Cultural Audit’ has confirmed that London leads the cultural way in relation to other major world cities, with theatre at the top of the list. The report is the first to quantitatively compare London with New York, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai, and found that London, with 55 major theatres, overshadowed New York (39) and Shanghai (19).

The report, which was commissioned by the London Development Agency, also confirmed that with over 17,000 theatrical performances each year, London dwarfs New York’s output by nearly 5,000 performances. London also has more live music performances (32,292 as opposed to 22,204) and almost double the number of museums than its American counterpart. The report also targets cultural diversity within cities. With 200 festivals staged each year, many celebrating different sections of London’s diverse community, the English capital is also a world leader.

Broadcaster, writer and cultural commentator Bonnie Greer, whose musical Marilyn And Ella is currently playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, welcomed the new report, saying: “One of the things that drew me to London was the incredible range and vitality of the arts and culture that are available here and this report makes the case for culture and for the London that all of us want to make.”

In his response to the report, Richard Pulford, Chief Executive of The Society of London Theatre, commented: “We have always felt that the diversity and quality of theatre and performance on offer in London is the very best in the world. This report, in addition to 2007’s record attendance figures, underlines that.”

In an effort to maintain London’s culturally strong position London Mayor Ken Livingstone has announced a fund of £1.4 million, to be delivered by the London Development Agency (LDA) and Arts Council England (ACE), to develop and support cultural projects across London over the next 18 months. It is hoped that if the initial period of funding is successful, more money will be made available in the run up to the 2012 Olympics. The announcement follows swiftly after the controversial cuts to funding announced by ACE earlier this year.

Speaking about the new fund, Livingstone said: “In the four years between now and London 2012 the eyes of the world will be on the capital city, providing a unique opportunity to show off the rich creative and cultural talents that flourish in London. We are working to ensure that those organisations in the creative sector are given all the help they can to achieve this. At a time when funding in the cultural sector is increasingly competitive, support is needed for smaller artistic organisations that need help to bring their work to life and reach out to different communities across the capital.”

Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of the Old Vic, added: “London is a remarkable city with an incredible vitality that is hard to match. The fact that the city is hosting the Olympic Games in 2012 should be seen as an opportunity not just for sport, but also for culture. This new fund shows an understanding of how important culture is to London and a commitment to cultural activity as central to the 2012 Games.”

MA