Derry can take heart from Glasgow legacy

Continuing his countdown to City of Culture 2013, GARBHAN DOWNEY looks at just how we could benefit from the big year,

As anticipation builds towards our City of Culture year, there’s been some frustration that the economic benefits predicted when we won the title 17 months aren’t arriving quickly enough.

The good news is, though, there are definite signs of spring. Experts at a conference on accommodation in the city last week disclosed that bed-space in hotels and B&Bs is set to double to cater for the expected influx of cultural visitors in 2013.

The Programme for Government has accorded City of Culture ‘Priority One Status’, guaranteeing it ‘financial and other support across government’. And a Creative Industries Hub is to be established at Ebrington by 2013 specifically as part of Stormont’s commitment to Culture Company.

On top of that, you have the multi-million pound rail upgrade, which will now take place at least two years earlier than planned following lobbying by Culture Company. And Derry is the fastest digital city in these islands, after Culture Company’s principal partner, BT, finished the roll-out of high-speed fibre-optic cable in the city in October.

Our cultural revival won’t cure every problem, we know. But the Palmer Report into European Cities of Culture from 1994 to 2004 strongly suggests our new status will bring considerable short-term and medium-term benefits.

Importantly, however, a new study into Glasgow’s experience as City of Culture, two decades on, shows there are also longer-term benefits.

The Myerscough Report, published by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland this summer, reveals that Glasgow’s cultural economy has gone from strength to strength in the 21 years since it became Britain’s first European Capital of Culture.

The report finds that Glasgow has now actually surpassed the peaks it achieved in 1990 and contends that the city’s investment in its cultural heritage has paid dividends.

The number of people employed in the creative industries has risen by 43% to 31,000 since 1993, while direct government spend on the arts in Glasgow has also increased substantially.

Meanwhile, the number of cultural performances, across all sectors, has increased by 82% since 1992. Indeed, audiences have grown to such an extent that Glasgow’s cultural offer is now the most significant in Britain, outside London.

Cultural tourism has continued to increase, rising by 45% from 1999 - and it is currently 20% higher than the peak during the city’s year as Capital of Culture in 1990.

Glasgow’s experience is clearly heartening.

But for those looking for quicker results, it might be worth reminding you of the Impacts 08 study, produced by the University of Liverpool after its year as European Capital of Culture.

In 2008, Liverpool attracted 9.7 million additional visitors and £753 million in additional revenue.

Just think what even a tenth of that could do for Derry’s cultural sector and hospitality industry.