While the beneficial effects of culture on mental well-being is well known, the social and economic impacts of a well-developed cultural and creative sector are also powerful.

Like many businesses, the venue-based sectors - such as museums, performing arts, live music, festivals, cinema etc - have been hit hard by lockdown and the social distancing measures of the pandemic.

Similarly, artists, technical and specialist freelancers and independent creative organisations who are a critical part of the cultural and creative supply chain, have also experienced considerable hardship.

But a report commissioned by the Arts Council of England found that the sector’s Gross Value Added (GVA)* could return to its pre-lockdown level of £13.5bn by the end of 2022.

The research also shows the sector is set to be worth £15.2 billion to the economy by 2025.

So, how can the cultural sector help Southampton’s recovery?

Culture helps to attract visitors to the city, providing opportunities to explore and discover more about Southampton as a destination – the unique heritage, world class exhibitions and artworks, stunning theatre and performances.

Visitors are also able to experience a warm welcome in Southampton’s retail and hospitality sector, as well as the special parks and gardens.

The city council is supporting Southampton’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025.

The example of cities that have had this status – such as Hull – demonstrates that winning UK City of Culture can really boost the local economy, in the short term and longer term by attracting new businesses and investment opportunities across the economy.

When Hull was UK City of Culture in 2017, it added £300 million to their tourism market and up to £17 million gross value added to their local economy***.

The bid is an opportunity to build on the existing strong arts and culture sector and showcase the city as a great place to live and work, as well as the bid being a vital part to the city’s recovery in the context of COVID.

The city already has many stunning venues that are looking forward to safely welcoming visitors back again, following the latest government announcements.

The city’s venues really need everyone’s support.

Keeping Southampton’s venues alive will help a lot of businesses and the local economy; attending them will enrich and inspire everyone.

Visitors could start with Nahem Shoa’s ‘Face of Britain’ exhibition at the City Art Gallery which features portraits by outstanding artists who have painted British individuals from the 17th century to the present day.

Including Shoa’s own artworks, the exhibition explores what it means to be British in 2020/21.

The Gallery is planning to reopen with an exciting new collaborative exhibition with a national partner - more details are expected to follow soon.

While the city is looking to the future and how it recovers from this pandemic, a lot can be learned from Southampton’s past at SeaCity Museum.

Using the city’s unique historic collections, Gateway to the World recounts the stories of people who have departed from or arrived in the port of Southampton over the last 200,000 years - from the earliest settlers to the stories of people living in the city today.

Meanwhile many small local music and theatre venues, like The Joiners, 1865 and Mayflower Theatre, will be needing everyone’s support as they try to recover from the pandemic.

But they can also help with the city’s recovery by bringing joy and inspiration and helping to make Southampton a vibrant city.

Aside from direct contributions to GVA, a well-developed cultural economy supports employment, socio-economic development and innovation within the city.

A thriving cultural economy is also important for a shared sense of place and identity, providing opportunities to connect and discover more about each other, particularly when times are tough.

Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes, Communities and Culture said: “Culture has become the beating heart of Southampton, despite the pandemic it continues to inspire us, connect us, create a strong sense of pride and identity.

"We will need it to do all this and more post COVID-19, as it will also form an important part of our economic recovery as a city.

"At a time when it’s needed most, culture in the city will help create jobs and attract talent, offer opportunities for our young people, and ensure we’re a destination city to be proud of.

"Southampton people are rightly very proud of our heritage and cultural venues; our museums, galleries, theatres and more, which have had to close during lockdown, help tell Southampton’s story and inspire a generation.

"We all need to continue to support them, visit them when it’s safe again, so we don’t lose them forever.

"As we bid for UK City of Culture, which winning cities show can generate hundreds of millions into the local economy, we need to ensure that Southampton is a thriving destination city.

"Whether through attending our events, coming to enjoy our retail offer, hospitality, stunning green spaces, or to explore our hidden gems, having a vibrant visitor economy will keep our local businesses alive and jobs safe.

"With two world class universities, culture will also ensure we can offer a diverse range of career opportunities and retain talent in the city.

"Southampton is a great city with so much offer, let’s celebrate and make the most of this, let’s use culture to Love Local.”

To keep up to date with the latest events and activities (online at the moment), subscribe to Southampton City Council’s culture newsletter https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKSOUTHAMPTON/subscriber/new?topic_id=UKSOUTHAMPTON_13.

* https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/grossvalueaddedgva ** https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/faster-recovery-arts-and-culture *** https://www.hull.ac.uk/work-with-us/more/media-centre/news/2019/university-of-hull-reveals-uk-city-of-culture-evaluation-at-major-conference