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Brighton Festival boosts city economy by £20m

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Brighton Festival contributed more than £20 million to the city’s economy in 2004, according to a survey commissioned by Brighton and Hove City Council, Arts Council England, South East and Brighton Festival Society.

Consisting of both a main festival and a fringe, this year’s event – the 38th to be held since its creation in 1967 – achieved record combined attendances of more than 400,000. Nearly 60,000 people attended ticketed events at the main festivals, while a further 197,000 attended free events. The fringe enjoyed attendances of 28,000 and open houses for art exhibitions attracted an estimated 150,000. This makes the event England’s largest mixed arts festival. The audience comprised 69% from Brighton and Hove and 31% visitors to the city.

Felicity Harvest, executive director of Arts Council England, South East, stressed the importance of the event to the city of Brighton. She said: “The existence of the Brighton Festival has a major impact on the cultural life of the city throughout the year. We are proud to support the festival’s ongoing development and the many partner organisations who contribute to this success.”

The 2004 festival saw five world and seven UK premieres. Its programme included music, dance, theatre, street arts, literature and visual arts. Funded through a combination of sponsorship from businesses and public cash, the city council invested £500,000, ACE gave £400,00 and event organisers received a further £200,000 from other public sector investment. Festival sponsorship raised an additional £417,000.

Conducted by Sussex Arts Marketing, which collected data throughout the duration of the festival from May 1-23, the survey discovered that ticket sales amounted to nearly £800,000, artists exhibiting in open houses received more than £840,000 in sales and the festival generated £17.3 million of secondary spending in the city’s economy. This final figure represents money spent by audiences on outgoings such as accommodation, food, drink and transport and was calculated by conducting interviews with 1,000 ticketed event attenders and 500 free event attenders. The overall local economic impact was estimated at £20.3 million.

The report also drew attention to the £1.1 million worth of advertising that the festival generated through press coverage. It noted that this positive media attention helped to counteract the image of Brighton as the south coast capital for drugs and homelessness.

Nick Dodds, chief executive of the festival, was delighted with the findings. He said: “Brighton Festival is primarily a cultural celebration but we have always believed that it had a significant impact on the economy of Brighton and Hove as well but have never been able to properly quantify this, until now.”

He added: “To be generating in excess of £20 million every year into the local economy makes the festival a vital contributor to the success of the city and shows what a valuable investment it is for the public and private organisations that support us.”

The survey is the first to assess the economic impact of the festival upon the city.

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