The Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report/Summary of Main Issues
1.1 The purpose of this report is to present a draft of the Cultural Strategy 2020-2030 and seek approval to begin a formal twelve-week public consultation.
2.1 It is recommended that the Committee approve the draft strategy and agree to commence a twelve-week public consultation.
3.0 Main Report
Members will be aware that, in December 2018, the City Growth and Regeneration Committee agreed that officers proceed with the development of a new ten-year cultural strategy for the city.
3.2 The timing of this work was in response to a number of important developments and milestones including:
- end of participation in the European Capital of Culture bidding process.
- initial recommendations from a draft Festival and Events strategy.
- current Cultural Framework due to end in March 2020.
- current Tourism Strategy due to end in March 2020.
- core multi-annual funding programme for arts and heritage organisations in the city due to end in March 2020.
- tourism as a key strand in the Belfast Region City Deal including proposals for a new visitor attraction, the Destination Hub.
3.3 It was agreed that the strategy would build on the extensive public engagement carried out during the bid to become European Capital of Culture. Furthermore it would present an integrated approach to long-term cultural development in the city including:
- a citizen focussed approach
- consideration of the long-term sustainability of the cultural sector
- a new approach to Events and Festivals
- strengthening the tourism proposition in the city through greater understanding of the city’s cultural narrative and international appeal and
- integration of planned major developments such as the Destination Hub into citywide tourism.
3.4 The global context for this strategy is the increasing recognition that cities of culture can drive transformation.Culture has a critical role in shaping great places through:
- increasing cohesion and permeability
- building identity and confidence
- attracting investment
- retaining talent and attracting talent back
3.5 The Belfast Agenda sets out a vision for 2035 that imagines a culturally vibrant city. The purpose of the cultural strategy is to present a series of priorities that have the potential to contribute significantly to all five outcomes of the Belfast Agenda:
- everyone in Belfast benefits from a thriving and prosperous economy
- Belfast is a welcoming, safe, fair and inclusive city for all
- everyone in Belfast fulfils their potential
- everyone in Belfast experiences good health and wellbeing
- Belfast is a vibrant, attractive, connected and environmentally sustainable city
3.6 As well as supporting the Belfast Agenda, the strategy also responds to and helps to define the role of culture across other priority areas, including:
- Local Development Plan
- City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy
- Good Relations Strategy
- Open Spaces Strategy
3.7 This work has also taken into consideration Council’s involvement in 100 Resilient Cities. In addition, the strategy has considered the wider context including ongoing public funding cuts and the need for a long-term approach to support the sustainability and resilience of the cultural sector whilst setting ambitious growth targets. Belfast City Council will also be making a submission to the public consultation on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s draft 5 year Framework to reflect the ambitions set out in this draft strategy.
3.8 The approach to developing this strategy has strongly focussed on engagement with citizens and with city partners. This has included:
- Holding 62 civic conversations
- Engaging with 5361 citizens
- Supporting 625 creators
- Working with 106 artists
- Across 85 places
- Through 137 events
3.9 The approach has been shaped by two external bodies of work. The first is Agenda 21 for Culture – an international methodology that supports cultural development in cities and regions. The focus of Culture 21 is to embed culture as the fourth dimension of sustainable cities alongside existing economic, social and ecological pillars. Belfast’s participation in the Culture 21 pilot cities programme has already been approved and this programme will support the implementation of this strategy.
3.10 The second set of recommendations that have helped inform this strategy is the recently published Cultural Enquiry by the Core Cities network of which Belfast is a partner member. This enquiry presents a number of practical recommendations on investment and governance of culture in cities. This presents an opportunity for a collaborative model to be taken forward that complements the community planning process and sets shared priorities for culture along with a more effective approach to investment to maximise the overall return. This involves working closely to leverage new sources of finance including public-private models.
3.11 The strategy, A City Imagining, opens with a cultural statement for the city shaped by the thousands of conversations that have taken place since 2017 as part of the ongoing public engagement programme. This is then taken forward through an overall cross-cutting thematic approach to the strategy with each theme having a particular area of focus as follows.
3.12 Theme 1: A City Belonging – focuses on supporting active citizenship and participation in cultural life.
Theme 2: A City Challenging – focuses on diversity through use of public and cultural spaces.
Theme 3: A City Creating – focuses on supporting innovation and creativity across the cultural sectors.
Theme 4: A City Exploring – focuses on Belfast’s relationship to the rest of the world both inward and outward including support for cultural tourism.
3.13 Four strategic priorities are set out for each theme. The result is a strategic framework consisting of 16 key priorities to be delivered by 2030. Each of these priorities will be further developed in the next phase of the programme through detailed implementation plans.
3.14 The document also sets out a number of key strategic milestones throughout the ten-year period. These include:
- launching a new approach to events and festivals in the city
- producing an international year of culture in 2023
- bidding for UNESCO City of Music in 2021
- delivering a new visitor attraction in the city centre and local neighbourhood tourism programme to open in 2024
3.15 These specific initiatives are considered to be central to delivering on the city’s overall targets for the period and to attract new forms of investment into the city with significant cultural, social and economic impacts.
3.16 Critically, the Strategy considers the governance and investment model required to deliver this type of long-term transformation clearly positioning Belfast as a regional driver.
3.17 The purpose of the strategy document is to present the overall approach and commitments over a ten year period. The next phase of work will give detailed consideration to how this will be delivered in line with the timeframe detailed below. This will include the development of initial three year implementation plans that as well as being cross-cutting will specifically address:
- Arts and Heritage
- Events and Festivals
- Tourism product development including neighbourhood tourism
- Major strategic initiatives
3.18 These will be supported by a proposed investment model, communications strategy and evaluation framework.
3.19 Next Steps
The proposed timeline is as follows:
April – July 2019
Public Consultation on Strategy document
April – August 2019
Development of implementation plans and new funding model
Committee approval for:
- Final strategy
- Draft funding model
- Draft implementation plans
Opening of new competitive funding programmes
Oct 2019 – Jan 2020
Public consultation on implementation plans
Approval of funding recommendations and final implementation plans and finance strategy.
Financial and Resource Implications
3.20 There are currently no immediate financial implications to this report. The final strategy will be supported by implementation plans and a detailed finance and resource plan will be presented to Committee in September 2019, as part of the next phase of work.
Equality or Good Relations Implications/
Rural Needs Assessment
3.2 Equality and good relations have been central to the development of the Cultural Strategy to date and will continue to be considered as the investment model and implementation programmes are developed.
3.22 Input has been sought from the Council’s Equality and Diversity Officers to inform the strategic level assessment in terms of equality, good relations and rural needs. With a vision of cultural inclusivity and diversity in the Strategy and through the significant programme of engagement, the Cultural Strategy is likely to have a positive impact in terms of promoting equality and good relations in the city. There may be opportunities to increase levels of participation and engagement in cultural life in the city for certain groups such as older people, disabled people and those from minority ethnic backgrounds.
3.23 In line with the guidance from the Equality Commission and the commitment to engagement that has informed the Cultural Strategy; the strategic level equality impact assessment report will be subject to a 12 week public consultation period. This will accompany the formal consultation on the draft Cultural Strategy. The equality impact assessment will be updated as a result of this feedback. The information will be used to inform the final Cultural Strategy and the development of the investment model and implementation programmes.”
The Cultural Regeneration Manager provided a detailed overview of the draft Cultural Strategy, following which the Committee agreed to seek the views of those representatives of the cultural sector who were in attendance.
Accordingly, Ms. P. Larkin, Arts Development Officer, University of Atypical, and Mr. C. Mitchell, a local musical entrepreneur, were nominated to speak on behalf of that sector.
Ms. Larkin explained that the University of Atypical was a disabled-led arts organisation based in the City and welcomed the fact that its views had been sought during the initial engagement process. She commended the Council on the production of the draft Strategy and stated that it would add to the overall cultural vibrancy of the City.
Mr. Mitchell informed the Members that he specialised in writing music for theatrical presentations and had returned to Belfast ten years ago, having worked in other cities. He highlighted the fact that, whilst the quality of facilities and artists in Belfast were, in his view unsurpassed, there were difficulties, particularly in terms of connectivity and acquiring funding. He referred to the significant benefits which a well-defined cultural strategy had delivered, for example, for the city of Hull, following its designation as UK Capital of Culture 2018, and welcomed the fact that the Council’s draft Strategy would address the current gaps in cultural provision in Belfast.
After discussion, during which the Members raised a number of points which the Cultural Regeneration Manager confirmed would be fed into the consultation process, the Committee approved the draft strategy and agreed to commence a twelve-week public consultation process.