Last night I was on BBC Radio 4‘s ‘The Sinha Games’, presented by comedian Paul Sinha. This half hour show took an amusing, and broadly positive, look at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and you can listen to it via the BBC iPlayer by clicking the image below:
Last night I was invited to take part in a debate on the BBC News Channel about the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. You can watch the video below:
I’m going to be on the BBC News tonight, at some point around 9pm, debating the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with Ian Sinclair, who has had a great deal to say about the negative impacts of the Olympics in East London. I take the view that 2012 is making a hugely significant contribution to the development of the city and that its impacts are, broadly speaking, positive, even if it may be many years before they are fully felt. I wrote about this in my blog for the Metro newspaper recently and I’ve copied the article below…
At a time when the Government is regularly criticized for cutting spending and not investing in big projects to get the economy moving, why are people so angry about the billions being spent on the Olympics?
Ever since the Government first announced its intentions to cut public spending on a scale scarcely anyone had thought possible, the cry from the opposition and campaigners has been for the government to spend.
These cries make good sense; invest now in big infrastructure projects, create jobs in construction and manufacturing, prop up areas suffering worst from the effects of the economic crisis.
Another set of demands; invest in sustainable development, in young people, in culture and sport, and invest in long-term projects that leave a lasting legacy.
The money that has been spent on the development of the Olympic Park in Stratford meets these criteria and should be seen as the one shining example of where this otherwise spendthrift government is doing exactly what its critics says it should: spending big.
Celebrate the fact that the government is actually spending some money where it is needed
The total cost to the taxpayer of staging the Olympics will probably end up somewhere between 12-15billion. That money has been spent over seven years and hasn’t really been affected by the public spending cuts.
That money has directly created thousands of jobs and, indirectly, tens of thousands more. The excuse of a few weeks of sport has allowed successive governments to transform the fortunes of a part of east London that has suffered from multiple deprivations for a generation.
Infrastructure developments on this scale always leave victims. If it were possible to create projects that didn’t involve forced evictions, that didn’t create opportunities for a sometimes greedy private sector and that didn’t cause political controversy, then someone would have worked that out by now. But whether it’s a bridge, an airport, a bypass, a conference centre or a mega-event, investments of global significance can never be politically neutral.
It is the job of governments to make the case for their spending and to satisfy the public that they really will benefit from it. Successive governments haven’t won that argument.
But we pay taxes every day for services and projects that some of us will never use like schools, pensions, social services and defense. Add the Olympics to that list, think about the benefits that it can deliver, and celebrate the fact that the government is actually spending some money where it is needed.
This is a short blog post that I’ve written for the Crossovers blog, that we’ve been developing to help stimulate some debate before the Crossovers event on 19th September, which I’ll blog about later in the week. The post is based loosely on a chapter that I’ve written for the new Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, which is being published in January 2013, and it is about the future of cultural regeneration.
As public funding for both culture and tourism continues to shrink, and with the private sector feeling the effect of an extended period of economic gloom, it is easy to think that the long boom in cultural regeneration is over. For two decades and more, cities and towns in Europe have been through cultural regeneration schemes of one sort or another, often focussed on high-profile, expensive new cultural icons.
have cultural producers have bought into the cultural regeneration rhetoric?
The success stories that our attention is usually directed towards include Bilbao, Newcastle / Gateshead, Lille, Glasgow – cities that have used flagship cultural developments to help them grow their economies in response to decades of industrial change.
Right now, everywhere in Europe is facing the kinds of economic challenges that the regeneration schemes of the long boom were designed to tackle. What role can the cultural sector play in meeting these challenges and who is going to pay for it?
We’ve heard for years how the cultural element of regeneration helps to promote things like community cohesion and sense of place, how it can address low aspirations and create new kinds of employment and educational opportunities, especially for young people, and how it can be used to re-brand and promote areas that are in need of investment, often through attracting high-spending cultural tourists.
What will be put to the test now is not whether civil servants and regeneration bureaucracies believe in the power of culture to achieve these things, or whether private sector investors understand the role of culture in attracting employers and employees to an area, but whether cultural producers have bought into the cultural regeneration rhetoric as much as policy-makers and funding bodies.
is this the new model for cultural regeneration?
In Stokes Croft in Bristol, local activists and artists came together to improve and promote their neighbourhood, from the bottom up. This meant working at street level with residents and visitors and not waiting for the state to step in with grants or the private sector to open a new shopping centre to attract tourists. Stokes Croft designated itself as Bristol’s cultural quarter and over time has become known as a cultural tourist destination famous for its vibrant street-art scene and its energetic DIY culture. Sometimes this brought it into conflict with the local authority; the recent protests against the opening of a Tesco in the area are a testament to its continuing anti-establishment stance.
What has happened in Stokes Croft show us that the positive impacts of cultural regeneration can be achieved by cultural producers, activists and others working together as a community, without the need for masterplans, grants, public-private partnerships or consultants. We’ve seen this approach being taken in cities across the world from Berlin to London to New York, but historically the developers move in and start buying things up once an area becomes ‘successful’.
Now the developers are keeping their hand in their pockets, is this the new model for cultural regeneration?
Samantha Chaperon, with whom I’m writing this book on tourism policy, recently gave this presentation at the 2012 International Conference on Tourism in Archanes, Crete. The research investigates the proposal for a new public-private partnership for tourism marketing in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. In her research, Samantha puts forward the concept of ‘islandness’ as a key factor in understanding the prospects for the development of this partnership. You can email Samantha about her research by clicking here.