Reading has just completed it’s Year of Culture 2016 which saw more than 30 local inhabitants volunteer to be ambassadors for the town. Based at the train station, they greeted and welcomed visitors to Reading and provided directions, advice and information about points of interest in the town. This was to support the ‘Inside’ exhibition opened in the prison building by Artangel. The volunteers jointly gave over 400 hours of representing the town and promoting visits to Reading’s attractions, the town centre and the Abbey Quarter.
Artangel’s exhibition has attracted over 18,000 visitors and supports the argument that heritage and culture can really boost local economy and businesses. In fact, local businesses are keen to encourage closer working with arts projects and contributed £100,000 to the Year of Culture through sponsorship and donations. More investment is needed in arts, culture and heritage to increase economic growth in Reading. A recent survey of Reading companies found that 70% agreed that cultural events helped to build strong location identity which was crucial in relocating staff, recruitment and retention.
85% believed that business and the arts should work closer together to benefit the local economy and all of those surveyed agreed that business had a strong role to play creating a stronger sense of location identity in Reading. To get a more artistic looking website think about Reading web design and visit http://www.starwebinnovations.co.uk/
Many businesses felt that Reading lacked a clear sense of identity and thought that this perception could be changed with heritage, shopping, arts, local people and cultural events. Other features that would greatly improve the town would be a new theatre, more independent shops, markets, live music events and festivals.
Helping a town to understand its historic, cultural, economic and social background is a crucial basis for developing and forging a sense of place. A community will have different characteristics such as population, linguistics, demographics, cultural history, customs, landscapes, events and spaces. Every place has its own story to tell which is forever evolving and growing.
Arts, culture and creativity can improve a community’s competitive edge as well as act as a foundation for a sense of identity. They can attract new visitors and populations and contribute towards building a skilled workforce. There is a theory that says modern, high-tech and well educated workers prefer to live in towns and cities with plenty of creative amenities. Maybe towns could call an area a dedicated arts or creative district and this would help draw attention to the many cultural assets in the community.
Public Art attracts visitors and investment, particularly streetscaping by designer artists. This can include specially designed lighting, benches and signs and the better an area looks, the more it will attract pedestrians. Revitalization of derelict areas can also include turning a space into a piece of artwork, for example, transforming a street by adding artwork displays to empty shop windows. An eyesore can be turned into an interesting space. Grand Rapids, Michigan in the U.S has a fantastic contest every year called Art Prize which effectively turns the city into a giant art gallery. Anyone can enter and any visitors can vote. Residents, businesses and artists all work together over many venues and some 1000 volunteers sign up to get involved. Business is booming as footfall increases massively through the city.