The Northern Echo: The Glasshouse in GatesheadThe Glasshouse in Gateshead (Image: Press release)

The region’s leading experts have told a North East England Chamber of Commerce event about the  importance of culture to the region and the impact of the creative industries.

Key speakers at the event, The Importance of Place: The Value of Place-based Culture, included representatives from Arts Council England, English Heritage, Newcastle Building Society and The Glasshouse International Centre for Music (formerly Sage Gateshead).

They shared their views on the region’s ability to attract inward investment and said this is key to addressing future challenges.

Jane Tarr, Director, Workforces and Skills and North for Arts Council England, said: “There’s a huge amount of growth happening in the region, we’ve never had so many strong applications as we’re seeing now. Everything we do is about collaboration. Culture brings communities together.”

Jane shared the Arts Council’s corporate strategy and visions for the next 10 years, as well as the research they carried out around what culture means to people. She added: “People want culture on their doorstep. We also heard how important arts and culture is in other fields such as the criminal justice system, health, wellbeing and education.”

The event explored the role of place-based culture, how businesses can be supported to grow in the region, and key changes that are happening in the North East and what this means for local people and businesses.

Matt Collier, corporate partnerships manager at event sponsor English Heritage, shared information on development and investment in the region’s heritage tourist attractions and the impact they continue to make.

Matt said: “Some of the most amazing projects that have happened recently have been in the North East. It’s important to harness the power of place, and that’s what we do. Our sites, people and places are providing visitors and businesses in the region with a connection to their past – which in turn will provide a platform towards inspiring a better future.”

Michael Conville, chief customer officer at Newcastle Building Society, shared information on their work around championing the role of place and high streets, as well as their multimillion-pound investment into the relocation of their Newcastle branch.

Michael said: “Having a positive connection with the place we live and its culture, and having pride in where we live is incredibly important.

“The high street sits at the heart of our communities. It provides opportunities for social connections, cohesion, inclusion and local employment. High streets need to evolve.”

Michael also shared the huge opportunities around future partnerships, and added: “Pride of place is about connection.”

Amy Harhoff, corporate director regeneration, economy and growth at Durham County Council, shared information on delivering the county’s Inclusive Economic Strategy through regeneration and cultural activity.

The Northern Echo: Amy HarhoffAmy Harhoff

The plan sets out an ambitious approach to integrating culture within a wider economic plan, including the county’s innovative place labs to co-design place shaping, Aykley Heads Innovation District and major events programme, including this year’s Biennial Light Festival Lumiere.

Amy said: “Culture for me is the glue that binds everything that we do. It’s a fundamental aspect to our places because it’s fundamental to our people.

“The culture sector should not be overlooked. We are rich in heritage and we should celebrate that.”

Abigail Pogson, managing director of The Glasshouse, presented on why and how the arts act as a driver of innovation and growth, harnessing the North East’s creative power.

She said: “Culture has become synonymous with our identity. There are three powers that culture and creativity have to drive innovation and growth in our region: tourism, inward investment and international relations; innovation and skills; and health and wellbeing.

The Northern Echo: Abigail PogsonAbigail Pogson (Image: Press release)

“Culture and creativity are going to be critical in helping us solve future challenges. Investment in the sector reaps dividends, it is absolutely critical.”

She added: “We have a world-class ability to collaborate with each other, but we need to work beyond our region to build partnerships. Our national partnerships are part of our repertoire.”

Work around supporting communities, and how the provision of social housing supports the development of the region and access to culture was shared by Sharon Thomas, from housing association Thirteen Group.

The company’s Community Resilience Vision is aiming to create engaged, thriving and empowered places where people want to live.

Keith Merrin from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums also discussed how their venues connect people to the past, present and future of the North East through stories, shared spaces and experiences, and how the past can shape the future.

The Northern Echo: Tim Marsden, knowledge manager at the ChamberTim Marsden, knowledge manager at the Chamber (Image: Press release)

Tim Marsden, knowledge manager at the Chamber, said: “The event provided an excellent opportunity to bring together culture experts from a range of businesses and organisations across the North East.

“Culture creates a great sense of belonging as well as stability, and it’s key that, as a Chamber, we don’t underestimate the role that arts and culture plays in the North East.

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“The cultural and creative industries are a vital asset to our region’s economic competitiveness, so it’s crucial that we continue to provide knowledge and information on this important topic for our region’s businesses.”

He added: “I’m excited to see what’s next for the region as we continue to work on behalf of our members to deliver a stronger, fairer North East.”

The event took place at Radisson Blue Hotel in Durham and was sponsored by English Heritage