The findings from the ‘Reading’s identity and its impact on business’ survey were announced at last night’s annual Reading Economic Forum (Thursday 24 November) at Reading Town Hall attended by 150 members of Reading’s business and arts communities.
As Reading Year of Culture nears its finale, the survey focused on the identity of Reading and the role that arts, culture and heritage can play to help shape the positive perceptions of Reading that bring business growth. During Reading 2016, Reading’s business community has contributed almost £100,000 to funding the Year of Culture programme and associated marketing. The Reading UK CIC survey was designed to test the appetite for more business involvement in making Reading a better place post-2016.
The majority of businesses (60%) that responded to the survey believe that Reading lacks a clear identity. Having a strong identity, they said, was fundamentally important in business relocation decisions and in recruiting and retaining staff (70%), as well as many other areas of running a successful business. Key factors influencing positive perceptions of place identified by the businesses included heritage, shopping, arts and cultural offering, the local people and their cultures, as well as the business sectors represented.
Over 80% of Reading businesses asserted that the arts could help develop an increasingly strong sense of identity for Reading, with 85% stating that business and the arts should work more closely together for the benefit of the economy. Every single businesses responding to the survey identified a role for business in fostering a stronger sense of place in Reading.
Key improvements required for Reading identified in the survey included (in order) a new theatre, more independent shops, more events, markets and festivals, more live music venues and more public art.
Other areas that figured strongly in the survey included a greater need for arts and business to work closely together, the potential impact of Henry I on the town, the potential of Reading’s waterways to make Reading a more attractive place, a recognition of the long-term benefit of hosting the Reading Festival and the fact that over three quarters of businesses believed Reading’s art and cultural offering is moving in the right direction.
Adam Jacobs, Chair of Reading UK CIC, said: “These results show the value that Reading’s business community places on creating a more exciting and dynamic town, the potential that is already in Reading and the need of the arts and business community to work together to help drive economic growth.
“Well supported by business, Reading Year of Culture has contributed to developing a more creative and cultural reputation for the town - nearly 80% of businesses think Reading’s art and cultural offering is moving in the right direction. Reading UK CIC will be working hard to ensure that a key legacy of Reading 2016 is an even greater business engagement in the cultural life of our town.”
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