Ipswich culture: economic impact model and vision

    Man Reading Book

    Credit: Stawarz on Flickr

    Ipswich is home to a uniquely high concentration of major arts organisations (including six of Arts Council England’s national portfolio organisations) but the council and their partners recognise they “just don’t shout about it enough”. This piece of work was to help the town’s cultural partners develop a better understanding of the contribution of arts organisations to the visitor economy in particular, and begin a strategic conversation about how that could be maximised through leadership and investment.

    Commissioned by Ipswich Borough Council we developed a bespoke economic impact model. The model was designed jointly with stakeholders in a collaborative process. The model aimed to triangulate regional business economy and tourism estimates with locally-held ‘bottom-up’ data (such as actual box office takings, car park records, and occupancies reported by local hotels); and finally reality-checked with stakeholders’ own perceptions.

    The resulting ‘Ipswich Model’ was put to the test using data for three cultural venues and four events which receive support from the council through cash grants or in-kind. Our model produced figures for visitor spend relating to those specific events and venues based wherever possible on their own visitor numbers and visitor survey data. It then estimated the number of jobs this was likely to support in the wider economy using benchmark ratios. In addition we also used data from the venues and events about their own staffing and turnover, to estimate the impact on the economy of their own economic activity, in terms of Gross Value Added. An important outcome of the process itself was an increased understanding among stakeholders of how economic data can be gathered and used, and increased recognition of the value of gathering good quality data.

    The headlines from the Ipswich Model showed the three venues and four events generate in excess of £15 million of visitor spend annually, the majority of which was outside of the venues/events themselves, i.e. within Ipswich but in local shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. Then, for the overall economic impact of the selected venues and events in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), we estimated this to be approximately £5.9m.

    The final part of our work was to look at how the impact of visitors to the cultural venues and events could be increased. Having built a better understanding of the building block of economic impact among the stakeholders, there emerged strong agreement that the key was to persuade more visitors to stay the night. This in turn enabled us to commence a strategic discussion about how the Council and its partners might work together to achieve those additional overnight stays, for example through joint marketing and a shared message to visitors around ‘abundance’ to tempt more visitors to stay-over and take in something else the next day. It was also recognised that this would be more successful with better sharing of visitor data, tighter co-ordination around customer insight, and collaboration on communications and marketing – compelling reasons for building closer partnerships.

    Si’s collaborative approach helped to bring local stakeholders together and to get people thinking about growing the cultural sector. The model really felt like it showed the impact of events and venues in Ipswich, which definitely helped convince local partners of its relevance. Through this work, we were able to achieve one of our key objectives, which was getting partners to commit to taking joint actions to support the sector.  Operations Manager for Arts & Entertainments, Ipswich BC

    Client: Ipswich Borough Council

    Photo: Stawarz on Flickr

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