Agenda item

Plymouth Culture Plan Annual Update


Councillor Jemima Laing (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, Culture, Events and Communications) introduced the item and highlighted:


a)    The range of benefits a thriving cultural sector to provide to a city and that Plymouth was ambitious and wanted a thriving cultural sector;

b)    The Culture Plan worked towards a number of outcomes including increasing and diversifying of spaces where culture can be seen, increasing creative industry jobs, diversifying and increasing audiences, reducing the environmental impact of the cultural sector and increasing and diversifying funding for arts;

c)    Plymouth Culture was key in working towards these goals, funding by Arts Council England and a small grant from Plymouth City Council, driving forward the strategic activity needed to grow the sector;

d)    Given the ongoing challenges facing the sector, work had been very successful with a number of exciting opportunities for venues, organisations, audiences and those working in the sector;

e)    The economic data showed signs of growth since the pandemic, with signs of ‘bounce back’ from 2022 and there was an estimated 3350 people employed in the sector, an increase of 9.8% since 2019;

f)     Despite funding cuts, Plymouth had continued to attract investment in the sector and found success in applying for grants;

g)    The cost of living crisis meant there was a risk of a widening inequality gap in cultural participation and it was a priority for Councillor Laing that there were increased opportunities for everyone in Plymouth to participate in cultural activities;

h)    The priority programmes of work included an investment strategy, data collection and analysis, and alignment and integration, which were essential in addressing the cost of living crisis;

i)     The social value to the city was also important as it was essential to support community cohesion, positive well-being outcomes, improved educational attainment, civic pride and a cultural identity for Plymouth.

Hannah Harris (CEO of Plymouth Culture) added:


j)     Plymouth Culture aimed to support, enable and facilitate culture, rather than directly delivering cultural activity and acted as a connector and broker to leverage additional support and investment for Plymouth;

k)    The organisation had been working on plans around development of Plymouth city centre and how they could support vacant spaces to be better used. It had made funding available as grants; was working on an anti-racism program; had been instrumental in bringing the immersive futures event forward and had developed an action plan to develop music culturally within the city.


James Mackenzie-Blackman (CEO and Executive Producer, Theatre Royal) added:


l)     Plymouth had a very connected and collaborative cultural sector, facilitated by Plymouth Culture and the Economic Development team at Plymouth City Council;

m)  Culture meant different things to different people, and that was shown in the diverse range of cultural events in Plymouth;

n)    Theatre Royal Plymouth was the largest and best attended regional theatre in the UK, operated as a charity with a turnover of £15-16 million annually and employed around 300 members of staff;

o)    With increasing costs it was essential that the theatre found new ways of working and collaborating to maintain its position within the industry;

p)    James Mackenzie-Blackman was joining the meeting remotely as he had been in London following the announcement of a major co-production with Elton John on an adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, which would be built in Plymouth and star in Plymouth before transferring to the West End in London; a multi-million pound investment in Plymouth that would create a number of jobs, and would bring a number of people to the city, creating a boost for the hospitality sector;

q)    The theatre would be seeking other production opportunities in the future;

r)    15,000 people a week visited Plymouth city centre to attend shows and this brought wider economic benefits for the city;

s)     Theatre Royal Plymouth was passionate about working with local communities, especially children, young people and families, and there was a major strategic review underway into how they were engaged with and he welcomed feedback from Councillors;

t)     Creativity had been eroded from national curriculum in schools over the previous 10 years and so it had been harder to get children to the theatre through schools.

In response to questions it was added:


u)    Ticket prices at Theatre Royal Plymouth could be perceived as expensive by some, but tickets purchased at £70 helped to ensure there were also tickets available for £15-£18 and it was considered schemes and policies that could be put in place to ensure that people who would ordinarily find it a challenge to purchase tickets for shows at TRP, could attend;

                      i.        For example, most tickets for Hamilton would not be cheap, but Theatre Royal Plymouth was the only theatre in the UK to have a show just for children and young people and they would be working closely with Plymouth City Council to provide that opportunity to care leavers and children in care;

v)    The electricity bill for Theatre Royal Plymouth had increased from £185,000 per year to £676,000 a year and there was a deficit in the budget;

w)   Carpenters, welders and electricians, could earn more money working for organisations in the city such as Princess Yachts, rather than working in the cultural sector, so it was a challenge TR2 was trying to overcome, by encouraging people into those fields of work and encouraging them to work in the cultural sector as it was more creative;

x)    It was important that young people understood that they could work in the cultural sector without having to be an artist themselves;

y)    It was important for elected members to advocate for the cultural sector in the city as a good place to learn and practice skills and as the sector developed, the more jobs and opportunities would become available;

z)    Councillor Laing was keen to see cultural activity taking place across the city, closer to more communities, rather than everything happening in the city centre;

aa)  Culture took place at a wide variety of venues, some that might not always be considered, for example, live music at a pub, so it was important to look at mapping more of what was happening in the city;

bb) There had been a culture vending machine in Drake Circus Shopping Centre, where the public could pay a £1 to get a poem, short story or play, which had needed to be restocked several times, showing an appetite for culture in Plymouth;

cc)  Plymouth Culture were working with the Economic Development team at Plymouth City Council on a pipeline of places for culture in Plymouth;

dd) Theatre Royal Plymouth knew it could improve its food and beverage offering, but the economics were very difficult, but different ways of offering this were being considered for the future.


The Committee agreed to:


1.   Note the report;

2.   Write to the relevant minister to ask for more support for organisations in the cultural sector, following significant increases in utility costs.

(The meeting was adjourned for 10 minutes for a short break).


(The Chair left the meeting following this item and Councillor Tuffin was Chair for the remainder of the meeting).

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