Manchester City Council

A nice to have

Don't think I've ever done a Valentine's Day entry before, at least not consciously, so at the risk of being accused of being soppy and sentimental, this post goes with love to Manchester and all its people. The Arts Council are in town today. I know that as they have a big chunk of their operation at the Hive in the Northern Quarter they are in town everyday, but this particular day they are holding what I think is their third State of the Arts Conference, and the first out of London. It's a co-production with the City Council, Salford City Council and the Manchester International festival which kicked off last night at RNCM and then the Whitworth before moving today to the Lowry Centre. The conference brings together artists and arts administrators from across the country, and Mancs attending have picked up that there is a mixture of envy and astonishment at the extent to which in this age of austerity we in this city are still supporting the arts.

I chaired a session this morning on " Artists and a Changing Society " with speakers Drew Hemment ( from our very own FutureEverything festival ) and Gavin Stride ( now of Farnham Maltings, but like me before that from Mansfield ). Following brief and thought provoking presentations there was a lively debate with at least as many opinions as people in a pretty large audience.

I could comment on a number of the contributions made but wanted to dwell on a quote attributed to the Leader of Derby Council that the Arts are " a nice to have ". Of course I don't know if he/she actually said that, but if it was he/she needs their head examining. I've made these points before in the blog, but I think they're worth making again. Manchester continues to support our cultural sector for a number of reasons and I'll give just three. A healthy cultural sector improves quality of live and makes Manchester a better place, a place where people want to live. Involvement in the Arts whether as producer or consumer encourages creativity and innovation, both of which we need if we are to survive and thrive in the future. Last but not least, it's about jobs. Thousands of people are employed in the " cultural industries ", and many more who work here, grow businesses here, do so because of the quality of life I talked about earlier. For a modern city, support for the arts is not a nice to have, it's a must.

There are 6 responses to “ A nice to have”

  1. Cllr M Eakins Says:

    Glad you're so supportive of the arts as Manchester has had a strong national and global influence in the arts. I'm extremely proud of Manchester's achievements over the centuries, and I'm pleased the Council continues to support the arts.

    Was there any thoughts or plans to incorporate the old "Green Room" venue into the new Cornerhouse Cinema and Theatre development? I know many artists, budding or otherwise treasured the Green Room as a valued place to network and exhibit all sorts of cutting edge art. I know many people were bitterly disappointed that it had to close.

    Kind regards,


  2. Camille Says:

    Spot on Mr Leese.

    Manchester's cultural attractions are the main reason I moved here ten years ago. And speaking to other 'immigrants' it seems to be quite a common story.

  3. Josh Walker Says:

    “I could comment on a number of the contributions made but wanted to dwell on a quote attributed to the Leader of Derby Council that the Arts are "a nice to have". Of course I don't know if he/she actually said that, but if it was he/she needs their head examining.”

    What an incredibly pompous thing to say. Essentially somebody has a different view to your own, so they need some form of treatment. What might have been more useful would have been to actually explain why the Leader of Derby Council (Phillip Hickson – two minute Google search) might have made those comments. Perhaps he had a desire to provide extra services, or save money, or even invest in other technologies. I think to quote his comments out of context and then to arrive at the conclusion he may need some form of mental medical intervention is somewhat crass and quite bullying.

    On the subject itself, it would have been useful to have some form of evidence base. How do you know the arts world creates thousands of jobs for Manchester? If we invest in such schemes do we get a slice of any eventual sales? If a new Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin emerge and sell their work for massive figures do we keep the profits? If not, what is the difference between them getting the massive profit and a banker receiving a massive bonus? More analysis is required.

  4. Interested Manc Says:

    @Josh Walker. I think the general point here is that if you want to create a vibrant, diverse, edgy and brilliant city (Manchester is all of those things and, last time I visited, Derby wasn't- my opinion only), then you need to invest in the arts and the City's culture.

    I totally agree with Camille; I returned to live in Manchester after a couple of decades moving around the country because it is cultural, artistic and has an attitude that is creative. All of that, in part comes from its relationship with art and culture and the fact that it attracts people who want to live in that environment.

    People come here because it has stuff that is interesting and exciting, whilst they are here they spend money. They also bring with them the attitude that, in part, defines this City- enquiring, challenging and welcoming. The money generated contributes to the Manchester economy, which despite a vengeful Chancellor's axe is still vibrant. This in turn allows some ability to deal with many of the social problems caused by deprivation, which is the City's other reality.

    This is a blog not an economic treatise. Richard Leese shares his thinking, which given its influence over the way the City is shaped is of value. If you want the economic background that would bore a general reader to tears I suggest you get back onto google. It is out there.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    And what of the cultural importance of our built heritage?
    Other than a few high profile examples, the value of our building stock, particularly the more humble examples seems to be routinely ignored. Yet these structures can say much more about the city than an occasional festival, a painting hanging in a gallery or a totemic Edwardian fire station. They’re so very important to local pride and a sense of identity but all too often it is only 19th century laissez faire that lives on in Manchester.

  6. Dave Bishop Says:

    It's a pity that you and your council don't feel the same about Manchester's natural environment - nice to have but expendable? How about this:

    A healthy natural environment improves quality of lives and makes Manchester a better place, a place where people want to live ?

    In spite of the fine words and sentiments in the new Biodiversity Action Plan I can only gloomily foresee the continued degradation of wildlife, in Manchester, in the years ahead.



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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