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London mayor unveils cultural strategy

Johnson drives film education, business

London kids may be swapping Jay-Z for jazz and breakdancing for ballet if Mayor Boris Johnson gets his way.

Johnson, a Conservative, wants to encourage London’s youth to go to the opera and ballet as well as enjoy the more populist arts introduced by the previous Labor administration.

The moves are part of the mayor’s cultural strategy for the capital in the next four years, unveiled Monday in his Cultural Metropolis document.

Key elements, to be implemented by Johnson’s director of cultural policy Munira Mirza, include increasing the cultural education of young people as well as cutting the red tape involved in producing cultural events.

The mayor’s office will also work with regional screen agency Film London to organize London Film Day and to arrange screenings and events at venues across the capital that were previously underserved.

Other initiatives include extra funding for the London Jazz Festival, which will allow it to expand into the outer boroughs, and added support for next year’s edition of Children’s Art Day, which aims to increase young people’s experience of the visual arts.

“We want young people to get every opportunity to experience culture, to understand it and to think it is for them,” said Mirza. “We passionately believe that we must not patronize them but rather help them to understand and experience great art in all its variety.”

Effort is part of a larger cultural regeneration that will tie into London’s staging of the Olympics in 2012.

“There are tough times ahead, but I am committed to helping the cultural sector cope,” said Johnson. “For it to flourish and for people to be creative, we need to be brave with funding and bold in our vision. We will look at how to target business and training support to creative industries and we need to make sure red tape and funding pressures do not obstruct artistic progress, especially for smaller grassroots organizations.”

London’s cultural and creative sector is increasingly seen as an important economic driver by the government. A recent study found that in 2002 the creative industries added £21 billion ($31 billion) to London’s output and by 2005 some 12% of all London workers — about 554,000 people — were employed in the creative industries.

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