Council defends Coventry’s City of Culture legacy

Coventry’s UK City of Culture legacy has been defended by the council after the group overseeing the projects said it faced financial crisis.

Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for arts and culture has hailed the impact that external funding has had on the city because of its year as UK City of Culture.

Cllr David Welsh made the comments following news that the City of Culture Trust that delivered activities during the year and is responsible for delivering a cultural legacy, is facing an uncertain financial future.

Although concerned by the plight of the Trust and the fact that it may not be able to deliver its legacy arts and culture programme, Cllr Welsh said he believes the overall benefits of the year “far outweigh any downside”.

He said: “The most recent independent Economic Impact Report states that approximately £172.6m has been secured as a result of being awarded the UK City of Culture title.

“That includes £48m for our Cultural Capital Investment Fund made up of grants from a variety of organisations such as the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, Arts Council England, the Combined Authority the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. These grants were only secured because of the title.

“This fund enabled the city to restore, improve or bring back into public use cultural assets like St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry Cathedral, Drapers Hall, the Belgrade Theatre and the Daimler Powerhouse to name just a few.

“Arts Council England and the British Council are relocating their prestigious collections to Coventry as part of the Cultural Gateway which will be created in the former IKEA building, again conversations they developed with us only because of the national title.

“So many people have rediscovered the improved city centre following COVID, with improvement works in the Upper Precinct, Smithford Way, Hertford Street and the Bull Yard totalling about £44m, but all of that external funding was secured from grants as a result of being UK City of Culture.

“It has also benefited the smaller arts and culture organisations across the city which are the lifeblood of the sector. I know of organisations that say without the commissions of the Trust during the pandemic, they would have folded because they lost everything at the start of lockdown.”

Cllr Welsh added: “All of these examples are the sort of wide-ranging legacies that made the City Council bid for the UK City of Culture title in the first place and why, as a principal partner of the Trust, we’ve taken steps to help and support where we can because of that bigger picture.

“Obviously I’m disappointed and concerned about the financial issues of the Trust but as a city I believe we are in a better position overall leaving the year than we were before being awarded the national title which has to be a positive and we will continue on that improvement journey with or without the Trust.”

Lasy year, the council helped the City of Culture Trust with a £1m loan which at the time the Trust said was confident it would be paid back.

But councillors were briefed on Monday evening to say that the loan is now unlikely to be repaid.

Trust accounts recorded for the end of the financial year in March 2022 showed a funding shortfall of about £1.5m, with £20.6m of expenditure and £19.1m of income.

The trust’s total wage bill added up to just under £3.8m, having increased by £1.2m from the previous financial year.

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...