“Added value”

A key feature of the day was an exploration of the way in which the presence of a successful theatre or other arts enterprise brings to the local community and other businesses.

Julia Wilkinson, Chief Surveyor of Shaftesbury PLC, gave the view of a company with a property portfolio focused exclusively on London’s West End. The holdings for which she is responsible include 580 shops, restaurants, bars and cafes in theatreland including the villages of Carnaby, Seven Dials and Chinatown.

She sees a definite synergy between property and theatre, quoting SOLT’s figures of 46 theatres in the area with 18,975 performances annually attracting 14.7 million customers and a growth income of £623.6 million as an indication of the trade that theatres bring into the area that benefits all the other businesses, with opportunities growing with the extension of Underground schedules.

If a theatre nearby increases footfall for other businesses, it also plays a major role as a community focus, an aspect on which last year’s conference focused. Theatres and other cultural developments play a role in making a city or region an attractive location for businesses and their employees, something to which Dave Moutrey drew attention in explaining the development of HOME, the new location for both what was Manchester’s Library Theatre and Cornerhouse.

Their merger in 2012 and collaboration with Ask Property Developments (who donated the land) enabled the creation of a new cultural hub at the heart of a £500 million regeneration programme. At first a shared building was offered to the two organisation but they insisted on the benefits of a merger.

Manchester City Council, in collaboration with developers Allied London, is also developing the former Granada Studios as Factory Manchester, a £100 million venue which will be a home for Manchester International Festival and major cultural bodies.

The so-called Olympicopolis, the development of a new cultural hub on the Olympic Park which already involves new bases for Sadler’s Wells, the Smithsonian, University College London, the University of the Arts and the V & A, was the subject of a presentation from Rosanna Lawes of the London Legacy Development Corporation.

It will be the largest new purpose-built cultural attraction in the largest new urban space for 150 years—since the creation of the South Kensington museum complex of which it is a 21st century version. It will also include 70,000 square kilometres of residential development and involves £141 million of government money.

Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director, said their involvement in Olympicopolis would not only provide them with new performance spaces and increase their provision of dance production support but also provide a home for the training of choreographers and facilities to support artists at all stages of their careers.

Melanie Leech, now Chief Executive of British Property Federation but formerly Head of Arts Policy at the DCMS, warned against too much hanging onto the past. Theatres can become out of date. What goes on in it is as, if not more, important as the building and we need to regenerate our historic buildings.