Oglesby: corporate giving has role in Northern Powerhouse

Bruntwood chairman Michael Oglesby has called on the North West’s business community to do more to support the arts so that culture can fulfil its role in the region’s Northern Powerhouse ambitions.

Mr Oglesby, a member of the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT), told a gathering of business and culture leaders that corporate philanthropy was a responsibility for companies of all sizes and had become essential given the contraction of public spending on arts and culture.

And he said that ambitions for northern economic growth had to be supported by continued investment in arts and culture.

Mr Oglesby said:

“A city without arts at its heart is a dead city. It’s a city no-one wants to live in, invest in or visit. These days, everyone has to be a philanthropist and to give both money and time to support the cultural infrastructure which makes our cities tick.”

Mr Oglesby’s remarks came at a panel event held in the Wolf Room, Eaton Park, by kind permission of Their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Westminster, where he was joined by Justin Kelly, Director of Strategy for Siemens Industry Sector; Paula Ridley CBE, Chair of Liverpool Biennial; and Julie Platt, Development Manager for Chester Performs.

He added: “Corporate giving is so much more important when one considers the backdrop of continued austerity and our ambitions for northern growth. The sustainability of the North West’s existing cultural infrastructure is vital for the region’s economy and every business must play its part.”

Ms Ridley told the NWBLT Forum event, called Feeding the Creative Spark, that the UK was an attractive investment destination in large part because of its cultural offering.

She added:

“The Northern Powerhouse concept needs to recognise that culture has a key role in attracting business investment and in attracting and retaining the brightest and best talent.”

Ms Ridley cited the 2014 Liverpool Biennial as an exemplar of how culture delivered significant economic benefits, generating £20.7m in GVA, more than 870,000 visits and reaching a media audience of some 108m people.

Mr Kelly said that companies had to recognise that they had to be responsible businesses as well as purely commercial ones, adding:

“Our 14,000 employees want us to be a responsible organisation and want us to engage in their communities and in their cities.”

Ms Platt, development manager for Chester Performs, which is currently working in partnership with Cheshire West & Chester Council to deliver the RE:NEW project, transforming Chester’s 1936 Odeon building into a new world-class theatre, library and cinema, said:

“Cultural projects can and do transform the landscape of how arts and business engage with one another but it’s crucial that both parties have a positive experience and gain value beyond money or, for instance, brand exposure.”

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