IGN learnings

Culture and creative industries in West Yorkshire

Ign profile 2023 10 16 140009 rarp

Inclusive Growth Network

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Culture and creative industries contribute £160bn to the UK economy. The UK’s status as the fifth largest exporter of cultural services globally is central to our position on the world stage, both economically and in terms of soft power. Beyond this, culture plays a vital role in our day-to-day lives, shaping who we are as individuals and communities, and contributing to our wellbeing and pride in place.

However, the economic importance of culture has long been underestimated in the UK and too much cultural activity has been concentrated in London. In our latest report, we set out the role that culture and creative industries can play in catalysing inclusive growth. By nurturing cultural clusters and building on local cultural assets, we can develop strong local economies, address regional inequalities, and connect local people to high-quality, fulfilling job opportunities across the country.

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Our culture and inclusive growth event

Mayor Tracy Brabin is working hard to make this a reality, placing culture at the heart of her ambitions for the region. The Inclusive Growth Network was joined by Mayor Brabin on Tuesday 20th February at the Leeds Library to celebrate West Yorkshire’s groundbreaking approach to catalysing inclusive growth through culture and creative industries.

'As an actor and a writer, with three decades as a freelancer in the creative industries, I knew the opportunity for our region was boundless.' – Mayor Tracy Brabin

West Yorkshire has the fastest growing cultural and creative industries sector outside of London, with nearly 9,000 creative businesses and almost 50,000 jobs, injecting £2bn into the economy. For every £1 paid to a cultural professional, another £1.40 is generated in the wider regional economy. West Yorkshire’s cultural renaissance is fuelling inward investment with many transformative projects including Bradford Live, British Library North, the National Poetry Centre, Channel 4’s national HQ, and the forthcoming Brit School North.

The event drew over 70 delegates, including national and regional policymakers, academics, and representatives from cultural institutions such as LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, Harwood House Trust, Opera North, Leeds Conservatoire, Production Park, and Arts Council England.

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Culture and Inclusive Growth Framework

Our report sets out a new framework for culture and inclusive growth.

Taking insights from Mayor Brabin’s keynote and the Q&A, we have used this framework to explore:

  1. What West Yorkshire is doing to catalyse inclusive growth through culture and creative industries
  2. What places need to go further and faster
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What West Yorkshire is doing now – examples of good practice


A strong cultural offer is at the heart of place identity. It helps to create an attractive environment for business, and the kinds of places that people want to live and work in. West Yorkshire’s year-long celebrations of culture are supporting cultural and creative activity across all boroughs: LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, Kirklees Year of Music 2023, Wakefield’s Our Year 2024, CultureDale 2024, and UK City of Culture 2025 in Bradford.


Representation matters. Talent is evenly distributed but opportunities are not. Over two-thirds of Oscar winners are privately educated, despite only 7% of the UK population attending private schools. The Mayor’s Screen Diversity Programme supports young people of all backgrounds to pursue a career in film and TV in West Yorkshire. In the last cohort, 62% of participants identified as female or nonbinary, 43% had a disability, and 38% came from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Public services

Creativity can be harnessed for healthier communities. The Combined Authority is working in partnership with the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership Board on an innovative Creative Health System. The initiative offers tailored courses to individuals of all ages and diverse backgrounds, using art and creativity to address mental health challenges and combat social isolation.

What places need to go further

Strategy and measurement

Demonstrating the value of culture is vital for securing investment. This is especially acute during times of fiscal constraint and low public sector investment. However, current government frameworks like the Green Book often fall short in making the case for culture projects and need reform. Streamlining monitoring by developing uniform indicators for culture across the region would help foster a collective understanding of how best to make the case for investment.

Leadership and delivery

Devolution is a major opportunity for an incoming government. West Yorkshire was the first devolution deal with a policy heading for Culture, Heritage and Digital. But there is still a lack of clarity around what devolution means for the creative sector. An incoming government should see devolution as a tool to deliver economic growth through a thriving cultural and creative sector, embedding inclusive growth at the heart of their approach. Labour has spoken of a ‘Creative Compact’ commitment that will put the creative industries at the centre of the UK’s economic growth and international trade ambitions. It has also pledged to unleash a creative Britain for everyone, everywhere, by supporting the development of creative clusters with a focus outside of London and the South East. Ensuring culture has a pivotal role in the expansion and deepening of devolution will be vital to achieving this.


Cross-sector partnerships are key. Local government alone cannot create the conditions for culture and creative industries to thrive. Nor can one organisation deliver inclusive growth. There is an opportunity to further strengthen and build on relationships between local government, arm’s-length bodies, educational institutions and cultural organisations to convene, enable and champion culture and creative industries.


Culture is a strategic investment. The erosion of funding over the last 14 years and the high demand on public services has already pushed several councils to issue section 114 notices. Budgetary pressures in Birmingham City Council mean that funding will be cut for many cultural organisations in the city from this financial year. Where they exist, there is a role for combined authorities to play in supporting the delivery of cultural programmes. There is also a need for a move away from competitive bidding between places and funding of discrete, short-term projects to strategic, long-term placemaking and locality-based models.

What next?

At the IGN, we are passionate about how culture and creative industries can be a catalyst for inclusive growth. If you are interested in collaborating with us on this topic, do reach out. We are keen to support our members to progress this agenda, so get in touch if it would be helpful to have a conversation.


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Culture and creative industries: A catalyst for inclusive growth

A report to help places put culture and creative industries at the heart of inclusive growth.

3 MB  |  pdf