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Stockton reaps economic rewards from thriving cultural calendar

  • Date: 6 June 2013
  • Area: North
puppet in parade

Prometheus Awakes. Credit: Gilmar Ribeiro

Stockton in Teesside is known across the North East and beyond for delivering popular cultural events, with audiences that continue to grow every year. The impact of the arts and culture sector can be felt in many ways, including economically. Often arts organisations rely on public investment, from local authorities or the Arts Council, to ensure they are thriving, resilient organisations. The return on this public investment is well-documented, and three of our National portfolio organisations based in Stockton - ARC, Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) and Tees Music Alliance - have been making a positive contribution to the local economy for years.

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, Arts Council England said: 'Now more than ever, it’s important we recognise the vital contribution arts organisations across the country are making to our economy. Stockton in Teesside is historically an area of low arts engagement, but thanks to the likes of ARC and SIRF, not only are more people getting involved in the arts than before, but there is a clear economic case for Stockton’s arts infrastructure to continue to receive public investment, and to thrive.'

ARC, Stockton

Since opening 13 years ago, ARC has become a flagship multi-purpose cultural venue in the centre of Stockton, hosting hundreds of events a year from music and dance; to theatre, film and comedy. The following statistics highlight the economic impact all of the activity has had on the town centre:

  • Recent figures indicate the venue now generates around £4.5 million annually for Stockton’s local economy
  • each year more than 110,000 people visit ARC; over 650 artists perform at ARC; and 100 artists live and work in Stockton for a week as part of ARC’s residencies programme
  • ARC is responsible for the employment of over 50 people in Stockton, including 19 employees of Butterfields, a family catering business which generates over 90% of its income from ARC

Annabel Turpin, Chief Executive, ARC said: 'As these figures show, we are using our public funding, from both Arts Council England and Stockton Borough Council, to deliver significant economic benefits to the town whilst providing a vibrant cultural hub for artists and audiences alike.'

SIRF and the Stockton Weekender

SIRF, now in its 26th year, and music festival the Stockton Weekender both took over the centre of Stockton for a weekend in August 2012. Featuring a combination of large scale outdoor cultural events (Prometheus Awakes, as part of the Cultural Olympiad), musical performances and other arts and entertainment pieces throughout, up to 80,000 people flocked to the town to experience one of the region’s landmark summer festivals. The contribution these events made to the local economy is highlighted with the following statistics:

  • The average spend by people within Stockton Borough on the festival weekend in was almost £25 – double what it was in 2011
  • taking into account the spending that would have been made in the area anyway, an additional £1.3 million was generated for the local economy thanks to the festivals
  • almost 80% of Stockton’s local businesses agreed that the festivals are a good thing for businesses and residents in the area 

Reuben Kench, Head of Culture & Leisure, Stockton Borough Council said: 'The direct economic impact of increased turnover in shops, cafes, and hotels is hugely important in difficult economic times. Equally important, and with longer term effects, is the impact of SIRF on the image of the area. Businesses looking to invest in new facilities need to attract a skilled and satisfied workforce. Key business leaders consistently report that SIRF, and our wider cultural programme, has a positive effect on their decisions to locate their activities here. In a recent unprompted letter, the local Chamber of Commerce urged the Council to recognise the value of SIRF in deliberations about budget pressures.'

Useful links and further information

Stockton Weekender
The Arts Council’s new Advocacy toolkit