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Q&A: Two minutes with Phil Gibby

Music gig

Phil Gibby (PG) is the South-West director of Arts Council England, and has worked for the organisation since 2010. His background is in fundraising and communications, and he has previously held senior management positions at Welsh National Opera, Arts & Business and Bristol Old Vic.

How vital are the arts/creative industries to our towns and cities’ night-time economies? 

PG: “They play a critical role. A report by Bucks New University into Bristol’s music scene last year suggested it was worth £123 million revenue and £45m gross value added to the local economy – and that’s only one component of the arts and cultural sector’s contribution to the night-time economy.”

What threats do they face?

PG: “There’s a major existential threat to the night-time economy, and it’s planning-related. Fifty per cent of venues in Bristol have been threatened by development, planning or noise issues, even though the housing white paper insists that existing businesses must be taken into account within the NPPF.”

"There's a major existential threat to the night-time economy and it's planning related"

What is the Arts Council doing to protect the night-time economy?

PG: “We attach great importance to our partnerships with local government, and cultural organisations, so naturally we’re interested in this territory. In the South-West we’re fortunate to be working with several local authorities, such as Southampton, Bournemouth and Plymouth, which place an increasingly high value on how culture can help shape place, and deliver against economic and social imperatives. 

“Maximising the potential of the night-time economy is a significant element in that. We’re developing a paper on place, planning, and public realm work – in particular, we want to warm up our links with planners and design bodies, and all of this should feed into our thinking on cultural development as a driver for place.” 

What are creative industries looking for from planners?

PG: “We’re looking for the great leap forwards, and planners would probably say the same too of cultural and creative organisations. The main challenge isn’t a set of entrenched issues that are difficult to reconcile – it’s the absence of a common language. There’s certainly a role for us to play in that, for example, in terms of further developing the sector’s understanding of local and neighbourhood plans.”

How open are local authorities to adopting the ‘agent of change’ principle?

PG: “The ‘agent of change’ idea is critical to the night-time economy and I think political support can be built for it in most places. I don’t hear of many locations that don’t want stronger creative and cultural sectors, and stronger night-time economies, and ‘agent of change’ ought to be an effective tool to achieve that.

"I don't hear of many locations that don't want stronger creative and cultural sectors"

“The challenge is that for many developers it can feel like an obstacle to progress, while local authorities generally have less time and capacity than they would like to bring it into play. How this dynamic evolves over the next year or two will be a major test in terms of whether local authorities and developers are seen as enablers of, or barriers to, a successful night-time offer.”

How effective are measures such as the register of Assets of Community Value? Do you have any examples of where measures above have worked?

PG: “Nothing tangible yet in terms of night-time economy, but it will be interesting to see how this develops in locations such as Torbay, which is developing an Assets of Cultural Value register as part of its Great Places programme.”

Join the debate at the RTPI Planning Convention

Phill Gibby will be one of four expert panellists discussing 'Planning after dark' at the RTPI Convention in London on 17 June.

Find out more about the event and how to book on the Planning Convention 2017 website.

Image | iStock



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