Reports and Seminars | Impacts 08 Reports and Papers

The Business of Culture: European Capital of Culture impacts and engagement with the regional and local business base


This area of research sits within the Impacts 08 Economic Impacts and Processes thematic cluster. It looks at the impact of the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) award, denomination and programming on the business community in Liverpool, Merseyside and the North West.

The research is carried out using a mixed method approach, allowing for triangulation, and includes:

  • Analysis of secondary quantitative data (including VAT returns, business volume and employment rates) from 2000 to 2008, both cross-sector and sector specific.
  • Biennial North West surveys of the broad business base running from 2004 to 2008.
  • Qualitative research through in-depth interviews with specific sub-sectors, including major physical infrastructure developers, visitor attraction and visitor infrastructure enterprises.

This research strand will also draw strongly on parallel research focusing specifically on the experience of businesses in the arts and creative industries, which may be reported on elsewhere.

Latest Reports (March 2008) - Outline

Our latest findings are presented in three different reports, each with a slightly different focus:

  1. Doing Business in the European Capital of Culture: A Profile and Initial Assessment of Impact on the Merseyside and North West Business Base
  2. Impacts08-BaseLine(Mar08)TourismandtheBusinessofCulture
  3. European Capital of Culture and Liverpool’s Developer Market: Impacts and Interactions

The first two [1][2] explore the strength of the SME and larger business sectors in Liverpool, Merseyside and the North West and how this is affected by Liverpool’s ECoC designation and activities. The reports assess:

  • The sustainability issues of the local business base in Merseyside and the North West.
  • Business attitudes to, and knowledge of, the Liverpool ECoC and engagement with culture.
  • Business opportunities that have arisen from the Liverpool ECoC process.
  • The process of engagement of the Culture Company with the Merseyside business community.

The data for this area arises from two main sources: a biennial survey of Merseyside and NW businesses; and in-depth interviews with a sample of businesses in Merseyside following on from the survey findings. Both reports build on survey work in 2006 and follow-up interviews in late 2007 (see previous report: 'Measuring the economic impacts of Liverpool European Capital of Culture''). The survey will be repeated in 2008, and interviews in the summer of 2009.

The third report [3] explores the impact and interrelation of the ECoC nomination, process and rebranding of the city on the major physical infrastructure investment taking place between 2002 and 2009. The project involved interviews with senior executives of infrastructure projects and key officers in organisations charged with city centre development.

Findings to date

ECoC impact on the local and regional economy:

  • Current research findings see businesses operating in an environment of growth across the region and particularly within Merseyside, and in general the potential for continued economic growth in the city is viewed positively.
  • The ECoC is seen as an entirely positive, but relatively minor factor within Liverpool’s economic revival compared to infrastructure investments such as Liverpool One and the Arena and Convention Centre.
  • Benefits are expected to arise from additional tourist activity in 2008, attracting senior management staff as a result of a good and more visible cultural offer, and local image change.

ECoC impact on the local and regional business base:

  • Ten percent of Merseyside businesses reported gains in sales during the financial year 2005/06 attributable to ECoC 2008; on average, these enterprises estimated it to be 12% of their total sales.
  • It is thus estimated that 1% of Merseyside sales are attributable to the ECoC, inputting £216m into the sub-regional GVA. Using the same calculations, £529m of NW sales can be attributed to the ECoC.

Business views on culture as a driver for regeneration:

  • There are mixed results with respect to the value placed on culture as a driver for the wider economy. The larger infrastructure developers (operating in the fields of commercial and residential property, hotels and transport) saw the value of a strong cultural offer - whether night-time economy, heritage or arts specific - and expected that the ECoC would strengthen this further. The smaller enterprises interviewed in 2007 did not make this connection as clearly, but many saw benefits arising from Liverpool’s 2008 ECoC status for themselves and the sector.
  • The improved image of Liverpool within the UK, viewed by many as attributable to the ECoC, was seen as having a positive impact on property values and sales arising from relocation or expansion of existing businesses and business and leisure visits.

Sub-regional engagement with ECoC and Liverpool Culture Company:

  • In 2006, there was already a generally high level of knowledge of, and interest in, the ECoC among businesses of all sectors in the Merseyside area, with a fairly high level of knowledge and some interest from businesses across the North West.
  • A shared issue across the business sectors was communication with, and information sharing by, the Liverpool Culture Company, with many respondents spontaneously mentioning this. As with other issues above, this is explored more fully in the reports themselves.
  • Another criticism was that the Culture Company had failed to maximise the potential benefits of working closely with existing businesses. However, businesses did feel that the excessive negative press had not been helpful or fair.

Related reports

Earlier work within this thematic cluster is reported in 'Measuring the economic impacts of Liverpool European Capital of Culture' (January 2007), as well as informing the analysis in the Impacts 08 'Baseline report - 2006/07', 'Benchmark Indicators Report' and 'Baseline report - Core Messages'.

All other Impacts 08 reports can be found here.

Next steps

Findings from the above pieces of research will be incorporated into our annual indicators update. The assessment of ECoC impacts and engagement with the regional and local business sector will continue with data collection up to 2009, contrasting emerging findings with our 2004 survey baseline and aiming to identify 2008-specific impacts, in addition to impacts resulting from the ECoC designation from 2003.