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Culture: The cornerstone of the UK
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Culture: The cornerstone of the UK’s high streets

Our research into the UK's high streets found that 69% of people think culture on their high street makes their area a better place to live.

Jonathan Todd

Chief Economist

Jonathan is an economist with over a decade’s experience in impact assessment and evaluation, and high-level policy experience, particularly within the cultural and creative sectors.

Jonathan Todd - Chief Economist | BOP Consulting

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Arts Council England


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Culture is experiential in nature and is encompassed by interactions of an intangible nature, whether it be through a theatre performance or a museum showcase. 

But how has the pandemic affected culture on the high street and what kind of place does culture have in a post-pandemic world?

In July 2021, we published our report for Arts Council England on the potential and drive for bringing more cultural experiences to high streets in which we presented a thematic literature review, results from our polling survey, and a series of case studies.

Our key findings:

  • During 2020, with more than 17,500 chain store outlets closing on the high streets, culture has remained more resilient despite the restrictions of the pandemic;

  • Half of adults (50%) reported that they would want to see more cultural experiences on their high streets. Those within the 25-34 age range and those identifying as black Britons expressed this sentiment even more strongly, with 54% and 57% of these respective groups expressing their preference for more cultural experiences along the high street;

  • High streets have an untapped audience with younger people, as evidenced by 25% of those aged 18-25 reporting that they expect to spend more time on high streets post-Covid;

  • About 62% of UK adults agreed that the presence of cultural experiences on the high street increase their civic pride in their local area, particularly for women, those in the North and Midlands, and those aged 55-64.

  • In comparison to retail, culture requires more in-person experiences and therefore may require greater coordination in terms of events and space management, marketing, and place branding.

Strengthening the presence of cultural experiences on the high street can allow local areas to resist widespread closures with the move of retail to online platforms. In particular, in a post-pandemic context, high streets should recentre their purpose around being multifunctional spaces for social connection and building place identity.

You can download the full report below.

This report points to a body of evidence that demonstrates the role culture and creativity plays in attracting footfall to the high street, generating spend and creating civic pride.

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Jonathan Todd - Chief Economist | BOP Consulting

Jonathan Todd

Chief Economist