The DCMS Select Committee has today published its report into the impact of major sporting and cultural events. Spirit of 2012 was pleased to give both written and oral evidence to the committee and – whilst we would endorse many of its recommendations, we are perhaps more optimistic than the Committee that there is still time to make sure the events of 2022 add up to more than the sum of their parts.
This includes making sure that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture have a volunteering legacy. Over 15,000 volunteers will offer their time to help out at these events. Our experiences of supporting the volunteering programme for the Hull 2017 UK City of Culture shows that many of these event volunteers want to go on giving their time, for arts and sports organisations, and wider.
As the London Olympic and Paralympic Games legacy funder, Spirit of 2012 is not an uncritical champion. The evidence we have gathered over the past decade demonstrates the need for both an understanding of events as a long-term project with strong strategic leadership, and how events contribute to broader goals at both a local and national level.
While there is still time to maximise the cumulative impacts of the events of 2022, we must act quickly to ensure we do not miss this once-in-a-decade opportunity.
The report rightly highlights the UK’s reputation for delivering world-class events, but that more needs to be done not only to secure a meaningful legacy at individual and community level for those that take part, but also the cumulative impact of hosting and delivering major events. Since London 2012, the UK has hosted a number of significant and individually successful events. 2022 will see a number of events of national and international significance – the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Women’s Euros, Unboxed, Coventry City of Culture and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee − and we agree that more emphasis should be put on the cumulative impact of this significant investment.
While there is still time to maximise the cumulative impacts of the events of 2022, we must act quickly to ensure we do not miss this once-in-a-decade opportunity. This cannot simply be left to event organisers or Government to consider in isolation. We welcome the Committee’s decision to look again at long-term and cumulative evaluation later in the year.
In November Spirit of 2012 will publish the recommendations of our current Inquiry into maximising the impact of events, where we will make recommendations for how we believe that events can designed and funded to deliver a more tangible and sustained legacy for communities.
Each event in 2022 has ambitious plans about community participation. We must understand how those plans work together across the year as a whole – finding out, through robust evaluation who is taking part and who isn’t, throughout the year.
We support the recommendation that the UK Government should develop a long-term strategy for hosting major events and we believe that this should include the devolved administrations to ensure that the benefits of events are felt and spread throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Some evidence heard by the Committee sets up major events in opposition to funding for grassroots culture and sport. Spirit does not believe that an either/or approach should be taken to hosting major events vs investing in community and grassroots participation. Instead, we need to be aiming for synergy – a more focussed strategy can ensure that the sparkle and excitement created by a major event leads to and enhances a tangible strategy for community participation, but this needs to be planned and funded separately to the delivery of the event itself.
The report speaks of a missing ‘golden thread’ linking the events of 2022. In our view, the prevailing thread is one of bringing people together, reigniting a sense of pride in place, and enhancing community cohesion. Each event in 2022 has ambitious plans about community participation. We must understand how those plans work together across the year as a whole – finding out, through robust evaluation who is taking part and who isn’t, throughout the year. It is right to interrogate those events that seem to be targeted at everyone and risk reaching no-one, but it is possible to use national moments to bridge divides and strengthen existing communities.
Hosting a major event should provide a host city/region with a highly skilled and trained set of volunteers ready to serve their community.
How can we achieve this? Particular focus should be given to how events and commemorations tackle difficult and divisive issues in a way that purposefully brings people together, rather than entrenching divides and inequalities. Sport, arts and culture and volunteering have a powerful role to play in this – playing, performing and volunteering can increase understanding, attitudes and empathy across difference – and inclusion and community cohesion need to be baked in to event legacy planning from the beginning, and the starting point is a deep understanding of the community and which groups might be excluded or marginalised.
Finally, Spirit agrees that one of the most significant long-term legacies from major events should be the long-term deployment of the skilled and heavily invested-in event volunteer workforce. Hosting a major event should provide a host city/region with a highly skilled and trained set of volunteers ready to serve their community. More must be done, including specific and sustained funding post-event, to ensure that the investment in volunteers is not lost once the event has left town.
To find out more about how events and volunteering, download the first report of the Inquiry into the Power of Events: How Events Can Boost Volunteering