“For this special summer edition of LDN, we look at London through a cultural lens. Numerous news releases offer contrasting views on the capital’s visitor economy but one thing is clear – the city is home to a determined cultural sector full of creativity and energy. While a grey, drizzly summer might dampen the spirits, through its vibrant streets, parks, theatres, restaurants, galleries, club, museums, shops, may we continue to see in colour.
The great English essayist Samuel Johnson wrote that ‘for there is in London all that life can afford.’ As a relatively new Londoner, all it had to offer went way beyond just a place for me to seek work. Despite its unquestionably steep affordability challenges, the buzz of London remains a thrill. Yet this is a time when Londoners themselves face similar challenges in affording all the life this capital offers. And this comes when the city’s cultural offer is still recovering from the pandemic, buffeted by Brexit, changing societal tastes and politics. I’ve come to appreciate London as a global city in my short time here - not just in its culture and diversity, but in its unique experiences of life too.
Walking through the centre of London on a Friday night, you would not necessarily believe it was facing so many threats on different fronts. But recent research from City Hall unpacked the challenges London’s cultural and creative sectors face. What’s clear is that the city’s hegemony as a leading tourist destination cannot be taken for granted – nor the contribution it makes to the nation as a whole. That same piece of GLA research finds that the capital’s creative sector delivers net tax contributions of £4,300 per person to the Treasury – yet under the name of ‘levelling up’ key government arts funding has been shifted away from the city, potentially putting at risk the ‘crown jewels’ that make this city so special. As has been commented on by a number of major businesses and city leaders, by sticking with the so-called ‘tourist tax’, the Government are driving key overseas visitors into the arms of competitor cities. Despite evidence that abolishing VAT free shopping for tourists actually costs the Treasury money, the Government are refusing to budge.
Next week, the LDN team will be taking a short summer break, but we’ll be back on 23 August for your usual roundup!”
We hope you enjoy this edition and if you don't already, do follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. You can also visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
And finally, a technical note: If you like hearing from us, make sure to add email@example.com to your contacts or ‘safe sender’ list – this will help ensure our news bulletin lands in your inbox.
DOWN IN THE TUBE STATION AT MIDNIGHT
Frank Sinatra described New York as the city that never sleeps. But for some, it’s how they’d like London to be. A city that comes alive after dark. Where the measure of success is the ability to buy stiff drinks, dance yourself dizzy, satisfy your munchies and get home safely – all after midnight. The bright lights of the West End drawing people to London – both as tourists and to live – just as they have for decades.
Unsurprisingly, politicians and policy makers have sought to capitalise on London’s night time offer. The Mayor has a Night Czar with a dedicated strategy, the 24 hour city forms part of the city’s tourism vision and now London has the Night Tube. And there is much to be proud of – the city’s cultural offerings a key factor in London’s global success and recent live music successes shows the appetite there is. Yet for others, London is already a city that never sleeps. Shift workers, delivery drivers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, taxi and bus drivers, cleaners – all performing critical jobs without which London just wouldn’t work.
As London has grown, with waves of development sweeping through rough-and-ready parts of town, the night time has become the focus of competing pressures. Two million more people living in London compared to 25 years ago has seen a lot of homes built in places where you could previously make as much noise as you like leaving a club at 3am, free in the knowledge you’d disturb no one.
But gaining most attention is Soho and the West End – where gentrification rubs up against the area’s historic reputation for edgy (and even seedy) activities. Barely a week goes by without another established venue at risk of closure, the area has seen the steady erosion of its LGBTQ+ history and where even the sale of late night steak bakes created a furore. It’s little wonder there are attempts to spread activity more widely across the whole city.
For policy makers and politicians, this plays out through licensing, planning, noise enforcement, anti-social behaviour, waste and refuse. And it’s become harder – the rising costs of premises, difficulties recruiting workers and changing attitudes towards alcohol – compounded by the pandemic – all taking their toll, leading to some to bemoan the demise of London’s night life. Yet, just this week, a report found a 1/3 of clubs closed in just three years – but these are national figures, showing London isn’t alone in feeling the pain. Those lobbing rocks from beyond the M25 should be careful.
If London values a lively night time offer – and particularly one which stretches past the witching hour – the city needs to be clear why this matters, who benefits, what needs to be done to alleviate any negative impacts and that it needn’t be built around alcohol alone. This will mean that politicians and city leaders wanting to champion the night time economy will need to be brave and stand up to (often very vocal) opposing interests.
Despite challenges to its night-time offer, London is still a top choice for international visitors, as anyone who has witnessed the crowded pavements of the tourism hot spots will confirm. Despite the number of overseas visits being below pre-pandemic levels, forecasts from Statistica suggest a steady growth to take the capital beyond its pre-2020 figures, helping maintain its spot as a global leader for tourism. In fact, GLA research found that international visitors could bring an additional £647m in revenue into the capital this summer. And it’s not just the halls of our city’s museums which benefit from these arrivals. Aviation trade association Airlines UK have found that each UK-based aircraft directly supports 400 jobs and £27m in Gross Added Value to the UK economy, which is good news for London’s airports, especially London Stansted which is seeing growth margins well above its bigger brothers. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s dedicated tourism agency, VisitBritain, also recently upgraded the UK’s inbound tourism forecast for 2023, adding that visitors are expected to spend £30.9bn across the year. With London’s tourist destinations forming 20 of the top 50 UK attractions last year, and the city being a key gateway for tourists that then hit the rest of the country, there’s much room for optimism which we at LDN just love to see.
So, what does our city have to offer us in the coming months? As usual, there’s something for everyone! Photography exhibition Civilization, looking at ‘humanity’s ever-changing, extraordinarily complex life across the globe’ is on at the Saatchi Gallery until 17 September and for built environment enthusiasts, there is a Herzog & de Meuron exhibition at the Royal Academy until 15 October. Elsewhere across the capital, for music fans, the South Facing Festival taking place in Crystal Palace Park until 13 August and the V&A has a DIVA exhibition running until April next year. September brings the end of the BBC Proms, as well Black in the Square (2 September), the London Design Festival (from 16 to 24 September) and the London Podcast Festival (7 to 17 September). The Thames Festival is on from 1 September to 1 October, the London Film Festival is taking place from 4 to 15 October, while there are a whole host of shows and plays to go and see over the next few months. Looking further ahead, the refurbishment of the Dulwich Picture Gallery is set to begin at the end of the year, with the new-and-improved gallery reopening in 2025. Returning to the theme of the night time, here’s a handy guide for when you need a tipple somewhere after hours!
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Secretary of State Michael Gove has postponed his decision on the called-in application for Mitsubishi and CO-RE’s redevelopment of ITV London Studios on the South Bank until 6 October 2023. The plans for demolishing the site to create a 25-storey office building with two connected blocks of 14 and six storeys were previously approved by Lambeth Council and waved through by the GLA in 2022.
- China has decided to abandon its plans for a new 620,000 sq ft Embassy at Royal Mint Court in Wapping. The decision follows the unanimous rejection of the scheme by Tower Hamlets in December 2022. In response, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy perhaps demonstrated the clash of political cultures by saying: “It is the international obligation of the host country to provide facilitations and support for the construction of diplomatic premises. We urge the UK side to fulfil its relevant international obligations.”
- Hines has submitted plans to Southwark Council for the delivery of two buildings of 40 and 45 storeys as well as a smaller 22-storey building for a mixed-use scheme overlooking Blackfriars Station. The development will include 825,000 sq ft of office space, 440 homes (40% affordable) and retail and leisure space.
- TfL has expanded its property portfolio through a partnership with Countryside Partnerships and Peabody to deliver 98 affordable homes in Ilford. TfL is also seeking a development partner for delivering a potential 1,500 homes on the landmark Limmo Peninsula in Canning Town.
- Brent Council has approved United Colleges Group’s plans to develop an eight-storey building for the College of North West London near Wembley Stadium.
- Will Gompertz is set to leave his role of Artistic Director of the Barbican to lead Sir John Soane’s Museum.
- Peabody has announced the appointment of David Hardy as its interim chair following the sad death of Lord Bob Kerslake.
- Oliver Shah in The Sunday Times on how the Government’s attitude towards housebuilders is pushing them towards the Labour Party.
- The Observer on why reducing emissions from buildings will be the next front on tackling air quality.
- From the Sunday Times on how the ‘cult’ of Greggs took over Britain’s high streets.
- Andrew Keith, the boss of Selfridges, interviewed in The Times touching on the future of Oxford Street.
- Research by Knight Frank showing a ‘severe’ shortage of dedicated LGBTQ+ housing in the UK.
- London v New York – which is recovering from pandemic the strongest?
- And Nick’s long read on what the recent announcements on housing and planning from the Government might mean for the capital.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting the LDN team by using the details above.