Blueprint for London’s COVID recovery from “cultural catastrophe” set out by City Taskforce


Close collaboration across the cultural, civic and commercial sectors will be essential in tackling the “cultural catastrophe” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a report published by the Culture and Commerce Taskforce reveals.

Chaired by Lord Mayor William Russell, the City of London Corporation – in partnership with its creative district, Culture Mile – formed the Culture and Commerce Taskforce in October last year.

It assembled leading figures from across the capital’s commercial, civic, tech, and creative organisations to find new ways in which London’s culture and business sectors can work together to maintain the city’s competitive advantage as a global creative and commercial hub.

The Taskforce makes three key recommendations to help secure the capital’s creative future, providing a blueprint for stronger collaboration between the culture and business sectors, and boosting London’s economic growth as the UK recovers from the pandemic.

‘Culture and Commerce: Fuelling Creative Renewal’, which is published 9 February, urges creative, civic, and commercial organisations to act urgently upon three recommendations: 

  1. Creative Activation: Bringing London alive through creativity

The commercial and arts sectors should work together to use creativity to bring people back to London as soon as social distancing restrictions allow. 

By repurposing public and commercial spaces and using creative and digital expertise across London, businesses and public bodies should employ artists and creatives to help develop urban renewal programmes, filling streets, shop windows, and lobbies in the capital with creative activity to attract workers, visitors and residents when COVID restrictions allow. 

  1. Exchange: Sharing knowledge and building skills between culture and commerce

There is a powerful opportunity to bring together London’s creative and business strengths to boost professional skills, attract and nurture global talent, and build international connections. By drawing upon each other’s expertise, culture and commerce can access the creative and business skills needed to navigate the challenges of a post-pandemic, post-Brexit world.

Recommendations include: a London creative skills event for school-leavers post-COVID; a  skills-sharing programme which offers professional development opportunities across the creative and commercial sectors; and an international exchange programme, which connects the creative and commercial sectors across the world to explore global issues.

  1. Creative Enterprise Hubs: Developing dedicated spaces for cross-sector innovation

Physical hubs are a hotbed of ideas for innovation and provide isolated workers with human connections and inspiration.

The Taskforce recommends establishing a brokerage model supporting owners, occupiers and employers to make unused office and retail space available for creative businesses, and a dedicated forum to give freelancers a voice in planning the future of the creative sector.

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Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact upon the capital’s cultural and creative sectors, and we make no apology for describing the situation as a ‘cultural catastrophe’.

“But this blueprint for a deeper relationship between the creative and commercial sectors will help boost London’s economic growth and places the capital’s powerhouse creative sector as a leading force in the economic recovery from coronavirus.

“It is critical for culture and commerce to work together and harness London’s creative energy to retain its position as the best city in the world in which to live, work, learn, and invest.

“I call upon culture, civic, and commercial organisations across London to consider what the Taskforce is proposing, with a view to implementing as many recommendations as they are able to, in order to help accelerate the recovery.”

The City of London Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.

In partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London.

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