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West Midlands Cultural Sector Research Project

Find out about collaboration across arts and culture

West Midlands Combined Authority and a range of cultural stakeholders worked together on a cross-regional cultural research project. Its purpose was to find out more about the arts and cultural sector across the West Midlands Combined Authority geography.

Arts and culture bring great benefits to our region. For example, they can:

  • create wealth for our economy
  • bring communities together
  • improve our health and wellbeing

In 2020, we worked with partner organisations to find out more about the arts and cultural sector in the wider West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area. This research will help us support the sector, as well as help more people to access the benefits of arts and culture.

Which organisations worked on the project?

Working together on the research project were:

  • WMCA and WMCA's Cultural Leadership Board
  • Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
  • Coventry City of Culture Trust
  • Birmingham City Council
  • Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership
  • West Midlands Growth Company
  • Culture Central

We also received funding from Arts Council England the Department from Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for this project.

What we did

We set out the learn more about the size and qualities of the West Midlands arts and cultural sector. We did this by looking at existing data and information sources, as well as talking to people and organisations that work within the sector. This information was then analysed to create new data sets, findings and recommendations.
The main focus was to look at how the arts and cultural sector was performing before Covid-19, but the research does include some impacts of the pandemic.
We divided up the cultural sector based on the DCMS Standard industrial classification of economic activities (SIC) codes, including:

  • arts
  • film, TV and music
  • radio
  • photography
  • crafts
  • museums and galleries
  • library and archives
  • cultural education and heritage

We know that this definition does not capture all types of cultural activity as ‘arts’ and ‘culture’ can mean different things to different people. We chose the definitions above so we could analyse and compare data in different sectors.

Please note that film, TV and games were for the most part not included in the research, although some overlap exists.

The three WMCA Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas we focused on were:

  • Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP
  • Black Country Consortium
  • Coventry & Warwickshire LEP

The research was divided into two different projects:

1. The Audience Strand

This looked at:

  • How many people attend and get involved with arts and cultural activities in the region.
  • How we could measure this better.
  • How we could encourage more people to get involved.

2. The Economic, Social Value and Cultural Infrastructure Strand

This looked at:

  • How many people work in the arts & cultural sector.
  • How many people study arts and cultural subjects in further or higher education, or through apprenticeships.
  • How important is the arts & cultural sector for tourism in our region.
  • What investment and funding is there for the arts & cultural sector.
  • How arts & cultural sector deliver benefits beyond just economic value.
  • What does our cultural infrastructure in the region include?

This strand also includes some case studies from North Birmingham, Digbeth in Birmingham, Leamington Spa and Dudley to analyse these areas even in more detail. This is covered in a separate report about these clusters.

Both research teams worked together where this was beneficial for the research.

To find out more about both research strands, key findings and how these might be useful for cultural sector organisations, you can watch a recording of an information session organised by Culture Central, Coventry City of Culture and WMCA in July 2021. View this session on YouTube.

The outputs

To look at the outputs for the Audience Strand:

To look at the outputs for the Economic, Social Value and Cultural Infrastructure Strand:

Email if you have a question about these reports.

For press enquiries, fill in the form on our website.

Organisation logos: WMCA, West Midlands Growth Company, Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Coventry City of Culture 2021, Birmingham City Council, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Culture Central, Arts Council England, Department for Digital and Culture, Media and Sport.