Section five: Conclusion and further resources

Councils are the biggest public funder of local cultural services and as leaders of place are central to the wider cultural offer in an area. However, this role is under strain as a result of pressures on public finances.


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The work of the Commission has highlighted how essential local publicly funded culture is to an inclusive recovery from the pandemic and the resilience of our communities.

A healthy local cultural ecosystem promotes economic growth, supports social mobility, underpins community health and wellbeing and provides the foundation for distinct places that inspire civic pride. It also offers a source of joy, hope and celebration for communities across the country.

Councils are the biggest public funder of local cultural services and as leaders of place are central to the wider cultural offer in an area. However, this role is under strain as a result of pressures on public finances.

The publication of this report is not the end of the story. It marks the beginning of a wider programme of engagement and discussion as we work with partners to turn the Commission’s findings into an action plan.  Local government, regional bodies, cultural arms-length bodies and national government will need to work together with cultural organisations and communities to safeguard the future of this vital local cultural infrastructure.

Yamin's story

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Yamin Choudry

Yamin Choudury, Joint CEO and Artistic Director of Hackney Empire

“At Hackney Empire you walk into a cloud of expectation and emotion. Every night 1,300 people contract and expand this cloud, they laugh, mourn and cry together and in a world that has become more and more disjointed isn’t it more important that we have these spaces to come together?”  

Yamin is an award-winning theatre practitioner, producer and director who is joint CEO and Artistic Director of Hackney Empire. Yamin’s lived experience and journey into theatre have made access the cornerstone of his practice.  

“Art and culture changed my life. It’s given me experiences I never thought were possible.”  

Yamin grew up in Tottenham. He had a difficult youth and ended up outside of mainstream education. This led to him being signposted to Haringey Shed, an inclusive performing arts organisation for children and young people. The team there provided a safe, giving and sharing space which catalysed a change in his life.  

In 2002 Yamin volunteered at Haringey Shed for two weeks. During that period Susie McKenna, who would soon become Creative Director at Hackney Empire, was directing the production. On learning that Yamin had never been to a theatre, Susie invited him to a show.   

“It was a new reality, a discovery. It was like how the explorers of the 17th century must have felt in finding new land. It was a world that always existed, but someone had just opened the door for me."

It was this moment, along with the subsequent support and encouragement of Susie and Sharon D Clarke, alongside musical director Warren Wills, that set him on the path to his professional career. He studied drama and theatre studies at University while working at Haringey Shed as a volunteer practitioner for the youth and children’s theatre.  

“Rain hail or shine I was there. I wanted to learn, absorb as much as I could. I was a sponge.”  

Three years later Yamin became the youth theatre director, and a full-time employee of Haringey Shed. He used his lived experience and knowledge of the local area to increase their impact and reach with young people across the borough.   

“Where Haringey Shed had previously struggled to get to communities, we got there and with bells on. We worked with every school in the borough and went from a youth theatre and a children’s theatre to forming three new companies, a children’s choir an adult choir, a youth form and a band. It was amazing to be a part of it.”  

In 2011 he returned to Hackney Empire to work with Susie McKenna on Hackney Empire’s ambition to rebuild their work with young people, leading up to the Olympics.   

Under his leadership Hackney Empire went from engaging 50 young people a year to 5,000. The programme is supported by Hackney Council and free to young people.  

“There are so many people from Hackney Council who were integral to this success. In addition to those in arts and culture their colleagues in planning, town centre regeneration, road management have enabled us to do weird, wonderful and amazing things in Hackney.”   

“It is important that peoples’ stories, views and narratives are shared. That will ultimately build stronger ties across communities. When we look at marginalisation amongst communities it is things like arts and culture which will bring us together, it is the best way to create engagement, bar none.”  

Further resources


Thank you to those who gave oral evidence at the roundtables, including:

Abby Symonds and Rosie Bowden, Arts Council England’s Youth Advisory Board, Nicola Greenan, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Isabel Oswell, British Library, Karamjit Singh CBE, Coventry Culture Change, Lee Hornsby, Creative UK, Claire McColgan MBE, Culture Liverpool, Mike Layward, DASH Arts, Yamin Choudury, Hackney Empire, Tony Witton, Kent County Council, Lizzie Hoskin, Manchester Camerata, Vicky Holbrough, Navigator North, Bola Akinwale, NHS England, Carolyn Abel and Cllr Satvir Kaur, Southampton City Council, Brian Warrens FRSA, The Backstage Centre, Marie Kirbyshaw, The Culture Trust London, Melanie Burgess and Clare Smith, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Hannah McLennan, UK Music, Tanya Vital, Vital Culture, Stephen Bashford, West of England Combined Authority, Hannah Wallis, Wysing Arts Centre, and Amir Hussain, Yeme Architects.


Thank you to those who attended focus groups and interviews, were part of our advisory group, or contributed to pen portraits, including:

Steve Moffitt, A New Direction, Emma Hutchins, Art Fund, Lucy Bird, Rebecca Blackman, Paul Bristow, Isobel Churcher FRSA, Naomi Kerrigan-Asress, Helen Parrott, Amy Vaughan, and Sue Williamson, Arts Council England, Richard Beales, and Louise Govier, Artswork, Lisa Ollerhead, Association of Independent Museums, Kathy McArdle, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Bev.g.Star, Symon Easton, Birmingham City Council, Lisa Anderson CMgr MCMI, Black Cultural Archives, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, David Bryan CBE, Brixton House, Quinton Carroll, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, Cardiff Council, Sukhy Johal MBE, Centre for Culture & Creativity at the University of Lincoln, Nick Poole, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Cllr Flo Clucas, Cheltenham Borough Council, Cllr Barry Wood, Cherwell District Council, Steve Mannix, Colchester Mercury Theatre, Jennifer Huygen, and Rachel Sim, Community Leisure UK, Tamzyn Smith, Cornwall County Council, Chenine Bhathena, Coventry UK City of Culture, Julia Bennett, Crafts Council, Gail Caig, Creative Industries Council, Stacey Arnold, Caroline Julian and Amanda Stevens, Creative UK, Erica Love, Culture Central, Trevor MacFarlane FRSA, Culture Commons, Victoria Hume, Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, Christabel Austin, Sheila Bennett, Xanthe Dennis, Alice Higgins, Guy Marcham, Hema Teji, Ruth Scrase, Jenny Harland, Evie McGregor, George Stanley-Jones, Harman Saggar and Tony Strutt, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Tony Butler, Derby Museums, Cllr Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council, Kathryn Littlewood, Disability Sheffield, Emily Candler, Discover South Kensington (Exhibition Road Cultural Group), Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Durham County Council, Ansel Wong CBE, EMCCAN and Notting Hill Carnival Village, Harry Brunjes, English National Opera, Neil Hopwood, Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership, Angela Farrance and Coral Flood, Greater London Authority, Deborah Bullivant, Grimm & Co Rotherham, Emma Noyce BEM, Hampshire County Council, Cllr Phillip King, Harborough District Council, Victoria Ryves, Heritage Doncaster, Ellen Harrison, Owain Lloyd-James, Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Ian Morrison OBE, Amy Pitts, and Sandra Stancliffe, Historic England, Pam Johnson, Leeds City Council, Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected, Tabitha Witherick, Libraries Unlimited, Kate Gibbs, and Carole Stewart, London Borough of Camden, Barbara Eifler, Making Music, Virginia Tandy, Manchester City Council, Charlotte Considine, and Leanne Littlewood, Middlesbrough Council, Alistair Brown, Museums Association, Grace Meadows FRSA, Music for Dementia, Alexandra Coulter, National Centre for Creative Health, Kathryn Simpson, and Suzie Tucker, National Museums, Fran Sanderson, Nesta, Gary Tuson, Norfolk Archive & Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government, Clare Hubery, Debra Manning and Cllr Alan Waters, Norwich City Council, Donna Pentelow, Reading Borough Council, Cllr Angie Dale, Richmondshire District Council, Cllr Janet Emsley, Rochdale Borough Council, Sue Harris, and Moira Ugoji, Royal Borough Kensington & Chelsea, Diana Buckley, Sheffield City Council, Michael Lewis, Shropshire Council, Christopher Walker, Society of London Theatre, Kate Brindley, South Yorkshire Combined Authority, Ruth Harrison FRSA, Spread The Word, Matthew Partridge, and Alison West, Stevenage Borough Council, Fran Hartley, Bruce Leeke, James Powell, and Krystal Vittles, Suffolk Libraries, Cllr Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council, Susan Wills MBE, Surrey County Council, Suzie Leighton, The Culture Capital Exchange, Tina Morton, The National Archives, Amanda Feather, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, John McMahon, The Royal Society of Arts, Jon Morgan, Theatres Trust, Bill Griffiths, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Tom Kiehl, UK Music, Mayor Peter Taylor, Watford Borough Council, Chris Butcher and Katie Easey, WEA, Rebecca Dicorpo, West of England Combined Authority, Jim Hinks, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Cllr Ian Adams FCIM, FRSA, Westminster City Council, and Alison Mckenzie-Folan, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.


Thank you to those organisations who contributed to our case study resource, including:

Art UK, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Barnsley Museums, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Museums, Blackpool Council, Blackpool Grand Theatre, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Cambridge City Council, Cambridge Junction, Craven District Council, Creative Estuary, Cultural Development Fund Network, Culture Liverpool, Culture Weston, DASH Arts, Derby Museums, Derbyshire County Council, Five10Twelve, Greater London Authority, Hambleton District Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Heritage Doncaster, Kettle’s Yard Art Gallery, Kirklees Council, Liverpool City Council, London Borough of Lewisham, Goldsmiths University of London, Manchester Camerata, Mansfield Museum, Museums Northumberland, North East Lincolnshire Council, North Somerset Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Oldham Council, Plymouth Culture, Reading Borough Council, Richmondshire District Council, Ryedale District Council, Selby District Council, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Museums Trust, Scarborough Borough Council, Showtown Blackpool, South Kesteven District Council, Stevenage Borough Council, Suffolk Libraries, Surrey County Council, The Culture Trust Luton, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Wakefield Council, West Lindsey District Council, West of England Combined Authority, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Westminster City Council, and City of York Council.


Thank you also to:

Arun Marsh Productions, Culture Runner, Independent Mind, Inspired Services Publishing Ltd, and Red Quadrant.

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