The Government’s 2022 Levelling Up white paper sets out to:

“Improve productivity, boost economic growth, encourage innovation, create good jobs, enhance educational attainment and renovate the social and cultural fabric of those parts of the UK that have stalled and not – so far – shared equally in our nation’s success.”

Within that framework, part of the paper sets out specific goals for the Culture and Heritage sectors. You can find these in chapter section 3.4.1 of the full white paper. Or read the extract below...

Levelling Up, 3.4.1 Culture, Heritage and Sport

The Case for Action

Culture and sport are key determinants of places’ social capital and critical elements of their social infrastructure. But while talent and creativity is spread equally across the UK, the opportunity to enjoy culture and sport is not. Those in less affluent regions are less likely to have visited a heritage site, or to have engaged with the arts, compared to those from more affluent regions. While the majority of Arts Council England (ACE) Grant-in-Aid funding is allocated to institutions outside London, culture outside the capital receives significantly less funding per head. Sporting infrastructure is more evenly distributed geographically, but socioeconomic background and location still affects participation. Nine out of the ten counties with the highest levels of physical inactivity are in the North and Midlands.

Culture and Heritage

Since 2019, the UK Government has been empowering communities to revitalise and champion their heritage buildings, town centres and spaces through the £95m High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme which supports 67 places across England (see Box 3.16); the £15m Transforming Places through Heritage programme; and the £2bn Cultural Recovery Fund, which has protected and supported cultural, creative and historic landmarks, organisations and people across the UK.

An £850m investment announced at SR21 will support world-class cultural and heritage buildings, including museums, historic sites and public libraries. This will help boost participation, engagement and employment in local communities and on high streets. In turn, this will support the visitor economy in these places, helping to drive regeneration and economic growth, and providing employment for local people.

SR21 also confirmed UK Government investment in the British Library’s Boston Spa Renewed project. This will power the ambition to deliver British Library North – a major new public facing facility in Leeds. Major investments like this in national institutions will sit alongside increased support to local cultural institutions. The UK Government is working with other major national institutions to explore how they can support cultural excellence in towns and cities in the North and Midlands. And will explore how local leaders can secure further investment from sources such as the UKSPF in cities such as Stoke-on-Trent to ensure its ceramics heritage is properly celebrated and the potential for that heritage to drive future economic growth is properly exploited.

Box 3.16 Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone Demonstrator Project

An early demonstrator project to the other 66 Heritage Action Zone Schemes, the Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone has now been completed and won the 2021 Future Cities Forum High Streets award. The UK Government supported the project with over £2m, enabling the transformation of The Burges and Hales Street area of Coventry, one of the few parts of the city to survive the Blitz. The scheme was led on the ground by Historic Coventry Trust, with support from the Business Improvement District and the City Council.

Breathing new life back into a run-down corner of Coventry’s city centre, the project has offered a range of mixed-use retail, pubs and cafes in an area increasingly used by students and visitors, as well as the local community.

Previously an area subject to crime and anti-social behaviour, the project has attracted new businesses. Public realm work behind The Burges will de-culvert the River Sherbourne for the first time and provide an outdoor seating and performance area.

In 2021, other local buildings opened as visitor attractions, including the Draper’s Hall – a long disused building that has been reborn as a concert and events venue. This has happened in time to complement Coventry’s UK City of Culture programme which has engaged over 400,000 people in its first six months of programming. The historic Charterhouse, which has received funding from The National Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England will also open to the public in summer 2022.

Tackling disparities in access to culture and delivering a truly national cultural offer should be a defining feature of levelling up. The UK Government will make changes to transform the landscape for arts, culture and heritage by significantly increasing cultural investment outside London. This starts with committing to 100% of the additional funding for Arts Council England agreed at SR21 going to support culture and creativity outside London.

In the spring, DCMS will set out further plans to deliver this over the next three years and beyond, and will include the following changes.

  • Setting out Arts Council England’s key priorities for investing in National Portfolio Organisations from 2023, including setting the Arts Council’s budget to deliver a more even distribution between regions of Grant-in-Aid and Lottery “Good Cause” funding.
  • Launching the 2023-26 National Portfolio funding round, which will provide funding to cultural organisations across England from 2023-26.
  • Increasing the national impact of London-based National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). ACE will identify a number of nationally significant as well as smaller NPOs that wish to establish a presence outside London, and provide them with support to succeed. This will mean encouraging London-based organisations to establish new long-term offices, venues or partnerships outside London, and giving them practical and financial support to do so. Organisations that wish to consider these options will be able to access funding for feasibility studies.
  • Diversifying the boards of cultural organisations in the National Portfolio. Arts Council England will support NPOs to engage with a wider set of audiences and communities, to ensure that the make-up of their workforces and boards reflects the communities they serve.
  • £40m of successful projects in England as part of the Cultural Investment Fund, with the majority of this being spent outside of London on over 50 projects involving cultural assets, libraries, museums and creative industries.
  • Identifying over 100 levelling up priority places outside of London that will be the focus for additional ACE engagement and investment. This will mean that places like Stoke-on Trent, Barnsley, Rochdale and Wigan are given the support they need to build on their rich cultural heritage – from the world-renowned ceramics of Stoke to Kirklees’ plan for a vibrant cultural centre in Huddersfield.

Further Reading

To understand the relationship and crossover between 'Levelling Up for Culture Places', ACE's 'Priority Places' and 'Creative People and Places', browse these links: