Revel in our culture in Waveney

ONE thing's for sure about arts and heritage in Waveney: there's never a shortage of things to do for all ages and wallets. And, vitally, these events and venues - plus many allied shops and businesses - are the makers of Waveney's substantial but unsung creative economy.

ONE thing's for sure about arts and heritage in Waveney: there's never a shortage of things to do for all ages and wallets. And, vitally, these events and venues - plus many allied shops and businesses - are the makers of Waveney's substantial but unsung creative economy.

I am staggered by the enthusiasms and number of arts and heritage enterprises and professional businesses, all in an area renowned for its small, ageing population. A few numbers reveal much about this district culturally: 17 community-run museums, three year-round theatres, including a busy multi-purpose arts centre, plus a bonus professional summer seaside rep. Add to that a huge host of voluntary organisations and professional enterprises across a vast cultural arena, all for a local population of under 120,000. That's more than any other rural district for miles and the envy of many. And it's very useful extra bait with which to lure thousands of tourists.

And more good news: most cultural enterprises historically have boomed in recessions. Theatres, especially, are acclaimed for their economic impact on local economies. They are also recognised nationally as a regeneration priority for potential relocating businesses.

Theatres and their audiences pour cash into neighbouring concerns for miles around.


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Norwich Theatre Royal, for instance, has been the national leader in calculating 'economic impact', a system that reveals to public funders what great financial returns they get for their money.

This impact may be spread widely, yet it proves a vital extra wherever there are theatres and other arts and heritage venues.

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People still buy the local paper to see what's on; they put petrol in the car or pay a bus fare to get there; they buy tickets, sweets, drinks and meals en route plus programmes and guides; some stay overnight, providing a year-round boost to B&Bs and hotels. Indeed, it's not just local people paying up - many events, and especially the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concerts at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft, pull audiences from across East Anglia and beyond, as well as giving Lowestoft national kudos (the RPO doesn't just play anywhere). All arts and heritage enterprises pay wages that get spent locally and do business with many other local businesses, from printers to woodyards, engineers to leaflet distributors, ice cream providers to decorators.

It all significantly adds up financially. Norwich's theatre estimates that its economic impact on the area was almost �17m in the last financial year - and it was closed for rebuilding in part of that!

That's �17m extra cash spread around the city just because of one theatre. So, the comparatively small cash sums that local and county councils invest as an annual 'grant' to that venue have a brilliant return.

So, think what our Marina Theatre and all those museums might be contributing.

The Marina is just over half the size of its Norwich counterpart, but there's still potentially a huge cash boost locally, undoubtedly in million of pounds. And then there's The Cut at Halesworth, the Fisher Theatre at Bungay and the East Anglia Transport Museum at Carlton Colville, the Lydia Eva restorations, the Lowestoft air show and so much more.

All our theatres are now collecting the data required to prove what they contribute financially to local communities and to education, happiness, civic pride, entertainment, stimulation and well-being; then we'll tackle other venues.

Revels 09, which launches in mid-April, is a celebration of all things arts and heritage across Waveney. Programme details will be revealed next week in The Journal and at www.waveney.gov.uk/Revels

The event list is growing daily, with scheduled activities or those especially planned, small talks and big shows; and events can still be entered by contacting me at arts&heritage@waveney.gov.uk or at the Town Hall.

In 2008 the Revels total included more than 160 events across five weeks - we've topped 100 for three weeks already.

Revels 09 is but a snapshot across the district of what is going on. But it also reveals that serious money will be being spent, too. One event alone - the nationally acclaimed High Tide Theatre Festival at Halesworth - will, with luck, mean there's not a B&B space for miles again.

So, explore and join in - do something different, go somewhere new.

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