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March 11 2010

Liverpool profited from year as capital of culture

Designation brought in millions of extra visitors and pounds in 2008, says research

It may not have been an unalloyed critical triumph, but Liverpool's year as European capital of culture earned the city bumper visitor numbers and a multimillion-pound boost to its economy, academics have found.

A five-year research programme published today analysed the social, economic and cultural impact of the 2008 title and found that the festival year saw 9.7m visitors to the city, an increase of 34%, and generated £753.8m for the economy.

Media coverage of Liverpool's cultural attractions doubled and for the first time in decades, positive stories outweighed negative ones focusing on social issues.

It found 85% of Liverpool residents agreed that it was a better place to live than before.

Dr Beatriz Garcia, director of the research programme, Impacts 08, said: "We found that general opinion of Liverpool was informed by very dated images of the city, which ranged from positive but fixed associations with the Beatles in the 1960s to more negative views of social deprivation in the 1980s."

She said it presented a richer picture of the city as a modern, multi-faceted place with a vibrant cultural life that reaches far beyond music and football.

"We also found, however, that the levels of enthusiasm generated by the bid led to unrealistic expectations and a feeling of uncertainty in the years preceding 2008.

"This resulted in the expectation, by some residents and stakeholders, that capital of culture [status] would single-handedly redress acute long-term inequalities between Liverpool and other UK cities, from unemployment to low income and poor health."

The report noted a 10% rise each year in arts audiences across Liverpool and higher levels of interest in museums and galleries. Visitor numbers at the seven largest attractions peaked at 5.5 million in 2008. Throughout that year, visitor numbers increased by 34%. Of the visitors surveyed 99% said they liked the general atmosphere and 97% felt welcome.

The study, by Liverpool University academics, found the local population initially had increasingly mixed views in the lead-up to the capital of culture year, which persisted until the end of 2007.

"Their concerns related in particular to the possibility that the expected positive change might not spread beyond the city centre and that it might not impact on their neighbourhoods or on 'ordinary people'," said Garcia.

But these trends were reversed during 2008 itself, showing a more optimistic view appearing by late 2008, when the latest survey took place. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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