London dubbed cultural 'powerhouse' in influential report


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The Independent Culture

London has been dubbed a cultural “powerhouse” as a report was released showed it performed strongly in a series of indicators from museums to comedy performances compared with major cities around the world.

The World Cities Culture Report, which was released today, compared the cultural standing of 12 major cities including Paris and Mumbai to Shanghai, New York and Tokyo.

Munira Mirza, deputy mayor for education and culture of London, told The Independent: “While it’s hard to say one city is on top, on a number of indicators, London is rightly pretty high,” before adding: “When I saw the data I was reassured that we were still doing well.”

While she hailed the performance of the formal institutions including the galleries, theatres and heritage sites – “all the things you would expect” – she added: “We also do surprisingly well on the number of festivals, and books taken out of libraries. London has a diversity of different art forms. We’re strong across a range of areas.”

The 60 indicators studied showed different strengths among the cities, which also included Istanbul, Sydney and Johannesburg, according to the report London was “strong in almost every category, with a great stock of cultural infrastructure, and high participation and attendance rates”.

Among the highlights was it topping the number of museums with 173 beating competition from its nearest rival Berlin, which had 158 and Paris with 137. More than half the adult population visit a major museum or gallery at least once a year, the highest of any of the 12 cities.

London has the most World Heritage Sites, along with Paris, with its four including the Tower of London, as well as the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. It has a further 18,900 historical sites, the second most behind Istanbul.

While the UK capital does not have the most comedy clubs, it does put on the most number of comic shows and performances with 11,300 a year.

New York dominates theatre but London puts on the second most performances at 32,000, has the second most admissions, and the second highest number of dance performances at 2,700.

The report, prepared by BOP Consulting, said: “In culture, London is a powerhouse. From Shakespeare’s time it has been perhaps the world’s most important city for theatre, while its great writers, from Chaucer to Johnson to Dickens, have helped shape the development of new literary forms. The city is now a major centre for a host of other art forms, including music, dance and art.”

However, the it cautioned that the UK faced uncertainty with Government spending cuts on the arts as well as private consumption coming under pressure.

The report also marks the launch of a World Cities Culture Forum, with cities coming together to discuss cultural ideas. A report is planned for every three years.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said that through the report: “We have discovered that our cities have more in common than we might have thought. This report makes clear that we recognise how important culture is to our success.” He added: “Culture is also central to how we address future challenges.”