Boris Johnson to reveal culture priorities

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Indy Politics

London Mayor Boris Johnson will outline plans today for culture in the capital in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Mr Johnson will pledge to increase access to the arts for people living in London's outer boroughs, improve music and art education, cut red tape for arts organisations and boost support for grassroots talent.

Cultural Metropolis - The Mayor's Priorities for Culture 2009-2012, also reveals plans for The Story of London, a major celebration of the city's people, its past, present, and future, which will take place across the capital in June 2009.

It also states the 2012 Games should be used as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create "a cultural legacy", through projects such as the art commissions which will be exhibited in the Olympic Park.

Mr Johnson said: "I want to maintain the capital's status as one of the great world cities for culture and creativity. My job is not to back heritage over modernism, nor to allow the destruction of much-loved old buildings. It is to encourage all manner of artistic expression, in the knowledge that culture is not just an add-on to the necessity of modern politics.

"I want to see better access and provision for people in the outer boroughs, where it can be very patchy. And we must capitalise on the opportunities offered by the 2012 Games to create a cultural legacy for all Londoners."

Initiatives to improve access in the outer boroughs include plans for the London Film Day, which will put on special film screenings and events across the capital in 2009.

Funding has been given to the London Jazz Festival to enable it to stage music performances in outer suburbs such as Richmond, Stratford, Greenwich and Walthamstow for the first time this month.

The Mayor has launched a "musical instruments amnesty", asking Londoners to pledge their old instruments to young people as part of a drive to improve music education.

The scheme is backed by Julian Lloyd-Webber, cellist and the young brother of Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Mr Johnson is also supporting Children's Art Day in 2009, which aims to increase young people's enjoyment of the visual arts.

Munira Mirza, director of culture policy, said: "We want young people to get every opportunity to experience culture, to understand it, and to know it is for them.

"We passionately believe that we must not patronise them but rather help them to understand and experience great art in all its variety: from western classical music to Latin American jazz; from paintings by old masters to new media installations by contemporary artists."

In 2002, the capital's cultural and creative sector added £21 billion to London's output.

By 2005, 12 per cent of London workers - 554,000 people - were employed in the creative industries.

Over 15 million overseas tourists come to London each year - five million more than go to Paris or New York - together with 10 million domestic visitors and 150 million day trippers. Seven out of 10 say that the culture on offer in London influenced their decision to visit.

Mr Johnson said: "There are tough times ahead, but I am committed to helping the cultural sector cope. For it to flourish and for people to be creative, we need to be brave with funding and bold in our vision.

"We will look at how to target business and training support to creative industries and we need to make sure red tape and funding pressures do not obstruct artistic progress, especially for smaller grassroots organisations."

Commenting on the Mayor's cultural plans, Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre, said: "Good for Boris. We welcome the Mayor's recognition that London's cultural life is uniquely thriving and diverse, and his aspiration to make the most of the City as a world-class cultural centre.

"The aim of bringing the arts at the highest level to all, especially supporting a newly co-ordinated approach to music education, will animate the City in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics and far beyond."

Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, added: "Culture and a cultural legacy was an integral part of the 2012 London Olympic win, and it's wonderful to see real projects and investments already being made.

"The arts have the most amazing power to inspire, uplift and revitalise communities and make a real difference to people's lives. Boris's plans for our great city are very exciting and should be warmly embraced."