Cultural leaders from the Tees Valley have joined up with representatives from the local tourism and hospitality sectors in a combined effort to help the region recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Spearheaded by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, a taskforce has been created to secure the futures of the arts and tourism in the area, which together are worth almost £1 billion to the economy.
It will be led by Annabel Turpin, artistic director and chief executive of ARC in Stockton, and will include leaders and experts from across the culture sector as well as people working in tourism, hospitality and the visitor economy from areas including Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesborough and Stockton-on-Tees.
The taskforce will work alongside the mayor’s office and the Tees Valley Combined Authority to plan how best to secure jobs and boost growth over the next year, as the region recovers from the pandemic.
Turpin said: "The impact of the pandemic on businesses has been difficult for everyone, but particularly in areas where people are coming face-to-face with members of the public daily. Even those that have weathered the storm and not been forced to close by government have seen severe knock-on impacts as the industry slows down.
“I’m determined to help get our recovery back on track by working with the mayor and other partners across Tees Valley to put together actions which will target exactly what our culture and tourism industries need to grow, create jobs and keep the region a great place to live.”
The creation of the taskforce follows an announcement last month that Houchen had set up a £1 million fund for hospitality and tourism businesses in the Tees Valley, offering grants to help them reopen and make their premises Covid-safe.
Houchen said the funding would provide an "immediate lifeline" to many businesses across culture and tourism, but added: "I also know our job to help these industries is far from done and, as ever, we will need to listen to the voices of the people on the front line, not just those in pubs, restaurants and theatres but hotels, our thriving creative and digital sectors and schools.
"Only by working together will we be able to create a package of support that ensures their long-term survival and feeds into my plan for jobs across the whole of the region."