Art as an Economic Catalyst

Plymouth Arts Centre Trustee Alan Qualtrough

Plymouth Arts Centre Trustee Alan Qualtrough on the importance of the arts and culture in the city.

Culture and art nourish the soul and create growth in the local economy. If harnessed intelligently, art can transform communities and lives.

A wish to help facilitate a step change that would put Plymouth on the map as a culture hub is one reason I became a trustee of Plymouth Arts Centre. 

I arrived in Plymouth in 2001 to edit the Evening Herald, and later the Western Morning News, having worked in thriving northern cities and London.

Like every newcomer, I quickly realised the city had great potential.

That was 13 years ago when digital media wasn’t as pervasive and the world was a different place; today cities have an opportunity to make their mark globally.

So how do we make sure that Plymouth is not just a passive consumer of digital and traditional media, but rises to the challenge of becoming a creative and productive global hub?

One way is to help PAC establish a new headquarters in Royal Parade so it becomes an even greater player in the city’s cultural life.

In the new building next door to the Civic Centre will be two cinemas and a high-spec gallery, more start up incubation spaces for would-be entrepreneurs, and strong community programmes.

It will be here that traditional and digital media can flourish together, it will be a base for skills training, collaboration and the showcasing of work. It will also be a major visitor attraction for Plymouth.

Art as an economic catalyst cannot work if all that is built is gallery space, so one PAC goal is to enable and inspire individuals to engage through participation, thus equipping them with skills necessary for a creative career.

I think the timing is right; an ambitious Local Economic Strategy (which among other things places a focus on creative arts) is in place in Plymouth and there is a degree of self-determination in economic planning through the recently-signed City Deal.

There is little standing in the way; the city’s broadband service is among the best in the UK and there is ambition and leadership.

The benefits would be enormous; for the creative sector, the use of broadband cuts at a stroke the disadvantage of Plymouth’s geography and distance from the market.

Also, I have a personal reason for wanting this change. I am a graphic design student at Plymouth College of Art and see daily the awesome creative talent of aspiring young people.

What a shame it would be if they have to move to Bristol or London or further afield to work.

Alan Qualtrough

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