- Dramatically increasing property prices are putting cultural life in London under threat.
- A new Night Time Commission has been created to support London’s night time economy.
- In the wake of the 2012 Olympic Games, a £1.3 billion project is turning the former Olympic Park into a new cultural hub.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 1,572 sq. km
- Total population: 9,006,352
- GDP (PPP) million: $565,000
Founded by the Romans two thousand years ago, London has long been a major world city, with connections developed over centuries through international trade. The impact of Britain’s early industrial revolution meant that London was the world’s largest city throughout most of the 19th century and into the 20th century. Today it has a population of nine million and with a diversity that reflects its global economic role and identity: 37% of Londoners were born outside of the UK, 40% of Londoners identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic, and there are over 300 languages spoken. After the loss of Britain’s industrial base, London retained its economic and cultural dynamism through its advanced services industries. It is one of the world’s pre-eminent centres of financial and business services, and also the cultural and creative industries. This covers a broad range of strengths, including film and television, fashion, publishing, music and design, alongside an increasingly vibrant tech industry. Its creative vitality, cultural diversity and heritage is a key reason why London attracts millions of visitors every year, many of whom flock to some of the most popular museums in the world, including the British Museum, Tate Modern and the National Gallery.
But for all its economic success and cultural renown, London is a city of stark inequalities. Some 27% of Londoners live in poverty, the highest rates in the UK, while research shows that London also has some of the greatest disparities in cultural participation. These are demographic but also geographic – some of the town centres in outer London have large populations but with very poor arts and cultural provision. It is for this reason that the Mayor’s 2018 Culture Strategy, ‘Culture for All Londoners’ made cultural inclusion central to its vision. The strategy has four priorities: for more citizens to experience and create culture on their doorstep; supporting, saving and sustaining cultural places; investing in a diverse creative workforce for the future; and promoting London as a global creative powerhouse.
The Mayor’s London Plan – the capital’s spatial and urban development strategy – has a dedicated chapter with new policies to safeguard and grow culture and heritage across London. For the first time London’s planning systems now protects artist studios, grassroot music venues, pubs and clubs. The plan focuses on ‘good growth’, to deliver a more socially integrated and sustainable city, which marks a fundamental step change in London’s development. It recognises that Londoners face increasing property prices, housing shortages, rent rises and a high cost of living. This in turn is impacting on cultural spaces, all of which are vulnerable to rising rates and rents. Together, the Mayor’s London Plan and the Culture Strategy embed the good growth principle across all initiatives including Creative Enterprise Zones, designated areas to support artists and creative businesses to put down roots and thrive.
This work is more crucial than ever as London emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and faces a new reality of being outside of the European Union, following Brexit.