New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership – ‘Culture Drives Growth’ strategy

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is supporting sector leadership and employing innovative approaches to support local economic growth through its creative and cultural sector strengths. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - regeneration section of our online Culture Hub.

Norwich Castle


The New Anglia LEP was established in 2011, and shortly after supported the setup of a cultural board to act as a sector advisor group, in response to the cultural sector being identified as one of LEP’s 10 priority sectors and vital to the realisation of the area’s economic growth targets.

The board comprises public and private sector partners including Norfolk and Norwich Festival, New Wolsey Theatre, Norwich Theatre Royal, National Trust, National Centre for Writing, DanceEast, Norfolk Museums Service, Snape Maltings and Visit East Anglia. The board is coordinated by arts teams from Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. It is chaired by Helen Wilson, a locally based national cultural champion.

The board started by commissioning two pieces of work – an economic impact study and a plan to build cultural tourism. These reports were vital tools in making the case for the value of the sector and for developing a coherent, informed plan. As a result, the board developed its first programme of work, ‘Building Cultural Tourism’. This was funded by Arts Council England, the LEP, cultural partners and both county councils.

By 2014, the board had the potential to develop and deliver a range of collaborative economic growth initiatives, working across both counties. The board recognised that it needed a medium-term plan to shape its ambition and potential, and ‘Culture Drives Growth’ was launched in 2015.

The strategy focuses on six objectives: accelerating creative job growth, scaling culture and creative investment, backing creative talent, increasing cultural and creative diversity, building an inspiring place to live, work and invest, and broadening international engagement.

‘Culture Drives Growth’ underpinned the development of two major strategic projects: ‘StartEast: building the cultural economy’, a bespoke business support programme for the cultural sector, and the second phase of cultural tourism work – ‘Look Sideways East’.


  • 2011 - New Anglia LEP established and identifies culture as a priority sector
  • 2012 - New Anglia Culture Board formed and economic impact report published
  • 2013 - Cultural Tourism report published
  • 2015 - Launch of Culture Drives Growth
  • 2017- Start East project commences until 2020
  • 2017 - New Anglia Culture Drives Growth Strategy and Culture Tourism Report Published
  • 2017 - Launch of second phase of cultural tourism work
  • 2017 - LEP commissions Culture Sector Skills Strategy
  • 2018 - Start East exceeding numbers of businesses supported by 240%

Delivery of activities

  • Funding for the New Anglia LEP programme
  • Norfolk and Suffolk county councils commit to playing coordination roles (2011)
  • £5,000 from the LEP to commission an economic impact study (2012)
  • Arts Council England (ACE) invest £25,000 in the cultural tourism report (2012)
  • ACE, the LEP and county councils invest in £0.3 million ‘Building Cultural Tourism’ project (2014-16)
  • ACE invest £10,000 in development of ‘Culture Drives Growth’ (2014-16)
  • European Regional Development Fund and ACE invest £1.2m in ‘StartEast’ (2016-19)
  • ACE, LEP and county councils invest £0.4 million in ‘Look Sideways East’ (2017-20)


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349 cultural and creative individuals or businesses supported through StartEast


16 per cent rise in the number of cultural tourists visiting the region

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cross-sector economic growth through work to develop collaboration between the cultural and technology sectors

  • 349 cultural and creative individuals or businesses supported – through the StartEast programme, helping to support sector growth
  • 16 per cent increase in the number of cultural tourists visiting the region
  • comprehensive culture sector skills strategy
  • facilitating cross-sector economic growth – through work to develop networking and collaboration between the cultural and technology sectors
  • cultural sector leadership – through development of a shared strategy and building connections with national organisations and funders, helping all New Anglia partners to shape service delivery around shared goals and more easily access skills and expertise of national cultural funders and deliverers.

Learning points

Ability to influence delivery amongst LEP partners: the fundamental strength of the New Anglia LEP cultural board is the partnership and collaboration it provides. An action plan has been developed which builds on the assets and capabilities of a range of partners to achieve common goals. By having ownership of the strategy under the LEP, there is a powerful strategic voice able to influence a wider range of members, ensuring delivery of the actions needed to achieve the cultural strategy.

Cultural tourism: Norfolk and Suffolk have historically struggled to establish a cultural identity, which the board recognised. ‘Look Sideways East’ has helped to challenge this through targeted digital advertising, building links with other cultural organisations and leafletting outside galleries and museums in London – with a focus on links between the area’s natural capital and cultural offering, to provide a distinctive offer. They are also currently developing a new culture-based website for East Anglia.  

Norfolk County Council recognises and greatly values the pivotal and leading national role of the New Anglia LEP cultural board in driving collaborative, culture-led economic growth. ‘Culture Drives Growth’ presents a unified strategic vision and ambitious roadmap which places our distinctive world-class cultural and heritage offer firmly at the heart of regional economic development, identity and innovation.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Chair of the Communities Committee, Norfolk County Council

Suffolk County Council is committed to building inclusive growth, it is one of our key priorities. We play a major role in the development and delivery of the New Anglia LEP cultural board’s work. This is a very efficient and effective partnership with Norfolk and our cultural sector leaders. This work is boosting our visitor economy, building our small cultural businesses and adding genuine value to the quality of life in Suffolk.

Councillor Paul West, Cabinet Member for Communities, Suffolk County Council