From ballet and opera to festivals and clubs, our definition of culture has changed

Friday 28 October 2022 6:15 am

Culture in this country is extremely diverse: it doesn’t mean only opera and ballet, but also festivals, nights out and much more. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Pre-Covid, the night time economy contributed £66bn per year to the UK, making it the UK’s fifth largest industry, accounting for 1.3 million jobs and 8 percent of the UK’s total workforce. Just three years later, we’ve nearly been wiped out and there is little chance that we will recover anytime soon.

Part of this decimation of the industry has evolved from a severe lack of support by then Culture Minister, Nadine Dorries and a severe misunderstanding of what the sector is and just how much it contributes.

With Dorris now thankfully replaced, I hope the government and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will step up and help rebuild a sector it has done little to support.

One area it must quickly address is its vision of what culture means. On its own site, while stating it is “here for culture” it describes its various support for arts and cultural venues, cinemas and heritage sites across the UK. But this is exactly where it is failing and a clear example of the growing aloof snobbery surrounding those making decisions on the sector.

For too long, the department has helped portray the notion of culture as an elitist institution, one which conjures up images of operas and ballets. But popular culture, by its very description, is constantly changing. The social behaviours culturally relevant to one generation or section of society are completely different to another, and the beauty of our island, with its different dialects, customs, music and languages, is in its multiculturalism.

The UK has some of the country’s best venues including The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, The Royal Albert Hall, the Tate Modern and the Science and Industry Museum here in Manchester. We have had some of the world’s most famous dancers grace our stages , and welcomed the world experts to discuss global issues in public forums.

But we also have Fabric, The National Football Museum, The Warehouse Project, and Parklife Festival, which we ensure has stringent line up regulations to ensure it reflects the diversity of the audience and communities it represents. In these past few weeks, we have also been celebrating Black History Month, and in Manchester we were proud to welcome hip hop artists like Blak Whyte Gray, to perform.

These examples show how culture is not just “arts, heritage and cinema”. In order to truly represent the sector, DCMS must move to reflect and understand the multitude of generations and communities it represents, the changing social attitudes, and the wonderfully vast and varying cultures that call our country home.

What’s more, the Culture Secretary must showcase an understanding of the diversity of her position in order to help save and redevelop the sector.

Having recognised its importance, the introduction of my role as Night Time Economy Adviser to Greater Manchester in 2018, is a step for our Mayor to understand the intricacies of what “culture” is, in order to keep it at the forefront of budget planning, but as a nation, we need more Night Advisors if we are to truly recognise the sector’s importance.

Our night time economy venues play a vital role in the economic impact, cultural influence and development, not only of major cities but small towns up and down our country. Our creative industries are central to our post-Brexit future, and to ignore them would be a devastating blow to our cultural reputation.

Culture has been redefined in the UK, and we need those at the very top to understand this.

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Jorge Oliveira

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