Brighton & Hove: The effects of Covid-19 on our culture and economy

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Written by Laura Ferguson 

The effects of Coronavirus on the global economy are undisputed; stock market downturns, declining economic growth and unemployment are just a few of the consequences we encounter as we tackle Covid-19.

The FTSE and Dow Jones Industrial Average have seen the biggest quarterly dip since 1987, with the Bank of England predicting that the UK economy will shrink by 25% between April and June this year and UK growth is forecast to fall by 4.5%. Brighton and Hove is, unfortunately, not exempt from these cataclysmic predictions, where the cultural hub of art and tourism has begun to feel the effects on its economy. 

 

Brighton and Hove events cancelled this year

Brighton’s popular events and festivals, such as Brighton Pride and Brighton Fringe, will not return to the city this year, after strict social distancing measures render them prohibited. Moreover, it is not yet clear when the government restrictions will be lifted. As a result, and due to the leisure sector being of significant importance to the local economy, Brighton and Hove is beginning to feel the strain of this limited status quo.

According to a report from Brighton and Hove city council, the financial impact is feared to be a big blow, with predictions of a loss of £100 million in revenues this year. The report compares this figure to the previous turnover of the performing arts sector – more than £329 million in 2018/2019. The subsequent loss of jobs in the arts industry will have a huge impact, where the majority of museums, theatres and other venues have been forced to close, with many employees being furloughed.

Many of the talented artists, musicians and actors that make Brighton a popular cultural destination are self-employed or part of small businesses which are struggling to stay afloat during this crisis. However, freelancers have taken to using online platforms in a move to create new ways to engage with people until we can return to normal.

 

Lower levels of tourism predicted for this summer

The cancellations of thousands of events this year is not the only challenge either. Brighton and Hove has long been the destination of choice for Londoners who seek to escape the busy city for the weekend and head to one of the most visited seaside towns in the UK. As advised by government officials, and in accordance with lockdown restrictions, the internet has been filled with images of empty beaches, which leaves Brighton and Hove with the prospect of economic damage from a summer without its’ seaside-related tourism.

Brighton has also reaped the benefits of tourists arriving into Gatwick Airport, where, in 2017, £1.8 million was generated from one-night stopovers in the city. With the aviation sector being one of the worst hit globally, and with Gatwick Airport running a very limited flying operation, Brighton and Hove can expect to feel the effects of declining passenger levels too.

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Coronavirus is impacting our independent businesses

Residents of Brighton and Hove will also be acutely aware of the impact that Covid-19 and the resulting governmental rules have had on the retail industry. The city proudly hosts an abundance of independent retailers; from sustainable clothing brands to quirky gift shops, Brighton and Hove has seen its once bustling lanes morph into empty streets.

Although there is a degree of government support available, people are undoubtedly feeling the pressure with falls in customer-demand, stock they are unable to sell, and no promise of when they can resume business as normal. Brighton and Hove City Council stepped in, however, declaring that the hospitality, leisure and retail industries will receive for this year and next, business rates relief, as well as a deferral of commercial rent until June for those who cannot make payments. After an eager wait to hear the Prime Minister’s update on 10th May, business owners have been advised that many shops and restaurants will not likely to be permitted to open until July, at the earliest. 

 

The path to recovery

Although the current economic climate is undoubtedly challenging, and there is currently no clear indication of the exact extent of damage to Brighton and Hove’s economy, and subsequently its cultural character, it is reassuring to learn that there is a recovery plan in place for a path to post-lockdown. Not only will this plan focus on rebuilding the local economy, as part of a wider national effort, but it will also look at developing positive changes for a more sustainable future. Many companies will look to establish an online presence and with many people are making use of online platforms to provide opportunities for engagement with the arts.

With international travel seemingly a long way off, ‘staycations’ may become the new national trend, which could play a part in bolstering the Brighton and Hove economy later this year and into next Spring. What is evident is that a greater emphasis on community investment will be brought to the forefront of the political agenda; although we do not know what a post-lockdown future looks like, it is clear that it will still be shaped by a regeneration that places Brighton and Hove residents at its core.

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