The culture sector adds $540 million to London’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the Cultural Prosperity Plan has established the importance of not just arts and heritage, but also the digital sector, knowledge workers, and education.
These are just a few of the reasons why culture will be the focus of this year’s London X conference. London X is set for Saturday, March 7 at Western Fair District (900 King St.).
London X is once again being put on by Emerging Leaders, an organization that works to attract and retain the talents of the city’s millennial demographic.
Sean Quigley, executive director of Emerging Leaders, said the cultural conversation is important because it includes discussions that extend beyond just the obvious examples.
“What I mean by culture is not just arts and heritage, although those are really important,” Quigley said. “It is about the spaces that we occupy together, what happens when we bump up against each other at the area, the sports field, on the bus. How do we move through the city; what do we do to create a sense of community.”
Last year, more than 300 people came out to London X, which hosted Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowment, one of the largest foundations in North America.
Oliphant, Quigley said, has been “very taken by the potential of London” and is interested in doing what he can to advance the city’s fortunes.
In terms of London X, it means Oliphant coming to speak about how Pittsburgh turned its fortunes around, moving from “a city was once regarded as hell with the lid off,” to today being one of the most attractive cities in North America to live in.
“So he is coming back to talk about collaboration and how we can get out of our own way so we can get to our goal,” Quigley said. “Last year (when Oliphant spoke) it was look where we got to when we thought nothing would get better. This is about how they got there and what we need to keep in mind.”
In addition to a return by Oliphant, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage will be appearing to speak on his city’s focus on building partnerships while focusing on talent attraction and retention.
Part of the turnaround in Halifax, Quigley said, has been Savage’s focus on rebuilding the arts community.
In addition, London X will feature a presentation from Shift London, which Quigley said is important to this conversation about connection.
“How we move defines how we are connected and that will be a major piece in terms of economic and cultural development,” Quigley said. It is going to be a very big deal.”
The focus on culture, connection and community can sound to some like lofty, pie-in-the-sky conversations. Quigley is quick to deny that perspective.
The average person, Quigley said, understands what neighbourhood is, what it means to be part of a community.
Quigley said he puts “great stock” in the average person, pointing out that a lot of average people — some 17,000 people in various ways — took part in the process that led to the London Plan.
“I think London X is like going and gathering around a great preacher and so you get inspired,” Quigley said. “Then you go and figure out how to take that inspiration and apply it to the places you live. That is what happens in culture all the time, it is a true part of culture.”
Tickets for London X are $40 and are available online at www.londonx.ca.
People can also donate a ticket to someone who can’t afford to attend. Last year there were 80 people who were able to attend London X through the generosity of others.