London confirmed as global cultural leader

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It has long been a boast of pundits and politicians but now it has been backed up by hard evidence – London has emerged as the world’s most culturally vibrant city.

A report comparing London’s cultural attractions with those of New York, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo shows that the British capital is ahead of the rest in virtually all categories.

It has more national museums, more musical performances and venues, more public art galleries and more major theatres than all its competitors, the report by the London Development Agency has found.

Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, said it was London’s cultural pre-eminence that made it a great world city. “Nobody comes to London to visit its bankers. Cities are not remembered for their economies, but for what they achieve culturally,” he said at the report’s launch on Tuesday.

Arts by numbers
LondonNew YorkParis
National Museums
Theatrical performances*
Number of music venues
* Number at major theatres per year
Source: London Development Agency

Mr Livingstone also announced a new £1.4m ($2.8m) fund for organisations to develop new cultural projects in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

He was backed at Tuesday’s launch by Kevin Spacey, actor and artistic director of the Old Vic, who said that London’s “incredible vitality [was] hard to match”.

“I have lived here for coming up to five years, and I adore this city,” he said, adding that bankers and business leaders needed to be further encouraged to back London’s cultural activities.

The report, London – A Cultural Audit, found that culture was “inextricably linked” to business. By 2005, 554,000 people – 12 per cent of all London workers – were creatively employed in a sector that added more than £20bn to London’s output.

It also found that London had the highest number of cultural consumers among the five cities researched, with the greatest number of annual cinema admissions (39.8m), major theatre admissions (12.4m) and per capita visits to top five museums and galleries (2.7).

Chris Smith, the former culture secretary, who now chairs the London Cultural Consortium, said: “London’s cultural and creative life marks it out as an outstanding city of global significance. This report spells out for the first time, in detail, how that has happened and what it means for Londoners.”

Mr Livingstone aims to encourage all nations in the Olympic Games to celebrate some aspect of their culture in London during the four-year period from the end of this year’s Beijing games to the opening of the London games.

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