A West Midlands State of the Region report has recently been published. It seems to be the usual window-dressing type of report, aimed more at potential inward-investors than at getting at the truth. But I’m blogging it here because Chapter 4 is on “Culture”.

After some cursory wrestling, the definition of ‘culture’ is the ultra wide-ranging version; including ‘Sports events’, ‘Tourism’, ‘Environment’, and even venturing into ‘Wetlands’ and ‘Registered Battlefields’. This somewhat dimishes the power of the interesting ‘headline’ fact, that…

“Employment in the cultural sector in the West Midlands now represents 9.2% of all regional employment”

Although we then find that this comes from the Office for National Statistics Annual Business Inquiry, rather than from any new research. And as I’ve said here before, the data sets from which these figures come would seem to be either pitifully inadequate or non-existent.

The report also repeats the DCMS growth figures, to the effect that…

“Nationally, the creative industries grew by an average of 6% per annum compared to just 3% per annum for
the economy as a whole between 1997-2003.”

… when we know that this was largely a statistical mirage caused by DCMS figures lumping in all dot.com “˜Software consultancy and supply’ companies into the ‘Creative Industries’ basket.

Worse, a few pages later the chapter airily cites Richard Florida’s increasingly undermined Rise of The Creative Class, to claim that…

“Research suggests that regions and cities with a reputation for creativity and tolerance are those which attract other creative thinkers and businesses,”

A handful of interesting facts stand out, such as: “”˜Environmental’ attractions in the West Midlands attract 49 million day visitors per year” sounds like evidence of an interesting emerging industry, full of sculpture parks and wind-powered coffee shops – but I rather suspect it includes things like ‘The Horse of the Year Show’ and other huge expo’s at the National Exhibition Centre, the giant ‘V’ Festival in the grounds of Weston Park, all visits to National Trust properties, canal holidays, and the attendances at the numerous large county agricultural shows. Still, as Trentham in Stoke-on-Trent has shown, there are very good returns to be made from giving a visitor attraction a serious ‘eco-makeover’. If St. Modwen can recognise such a market, put £100m into it, and make it a success within the first few years, then there is undoubtedly a growing market in such eco-attractions.