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We’re committed to helping the culture sector grow


Column by Jonathan Walker, head of policy and campaigns focusing on how culture drives economic growth in Durham as published in Sunderland Echo’s Portfolio supplement (27 February).

At the Chamber we know what an important role culture can play in our economy and we’re committed to helping that sector grow.

As an example, we’re working alongside our Partner member Sage Gateshead on a project to showcase strength of the region’s cultural sector and demonstrate how individual businesses and the whole North East economy benefit from vibrant cultural institutions.

But we’re keen to back these words up with actions – and this means some exciting activity in Durham later this year.

Back in November we announced that Durham Cathedral will be transformed to host a prestigious and unique business dinner for the first time.

The event will symbolise how two different organisations can work together to create something extraordinary surrounded by nearly a millennium of history.

Taking place on Thursday, 6 September, it has already sold out and will have 500 business leaders as guests from around the North East.

As well as being a unique occasion, we want to ensure this event makes a positive contribution, which is why profits will help raise funds for Durham Cathedral’s Foundation 2020, which aims to achieve a £10m target for all-important restoration work to preserve the building’s fabric for future generations.

Of course, we know (and are grateful of the fact) that not every organisation is in the business of putting on large scale events like this, but even the smallest business has the opportunity to work with the cultural sector.

There is no better place than Durham to do this. From the fantastic Lumiere through to Durham Book Festival, the county and the city is somewhere that using culture as part of its ongoing economic reinvention.

Unfortunately as we all know the cultural sector has been dealing with severe pressures on funding for some time now, but the good news is that this has provoked creative thinking, (as you would expect), with innovative fundraising partnerships flourishing as a result. Witness the fantastic Lego Durham Cathedral as a prime example.

If our cultural offer is diminished, our whole economy would suffer. It identifies who we are, helps to make our region and attractive place to live and invest and improves the wellbeing of our workforce. It would be easy to take the phenomenal cultural and heritage assets in our area for granted.

I urge all businesses to support and celebrate what we have here. There are plenty of mutual benefits available for those who do.