Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Banksy versus Tesco Superstore

Yesterday’s copy of the Bristol Evening Post told us how the recent Banksy vs Bristol Museum exhibition attracted over 300,000 visitors in 12 weeks. It also quotes Kate Davenport, Services Director for Economic and Cultural Development at Bristol City Council as saying that “hotels, restaurants and shops had made about £10,000,000 because of the extra people coming to Bristol for the exhibition”.
Now, I have little faith in council officers who make unsubstantiated claims about the economic effects of specific events on the local economy (e.g Stephen Wray’s £100 million World Cup “benefit”) but, apparently those in charge at the council house appear to believe the figures – which leads us to some interesting thoughts. The figures would appear to imply that the average visitor was willing to spend at least £30 in order to see the Banksy exhibition, and so this might imply a potential ticket price.

There appeared to be no let up in the demand to see the Banksy show – it is quite likely that if the exhibition had been allowed to continue it would have continued to attract large crowds. As well as the 300,000 who queued to see it, another 600,000 viewed a video of the exhibition, and there have been several public comments by people who would have been happy to see the exhibition but did not want to queue for three hours or so – and would have been willing to pay to avoid the loss of their time due to queuing.

What if a large exhibition area could be found for a further run of the exhibition, perhaps with a few new exhibits (a caricature of Brian Sewell must have a chance) in which tickets could be bought, either online or by phone with a timeslot for attendance thus avoiding the queues. If the tickets were sold at £30 each, then 500,000 visitors would generate £15,000,000.

Bristol City FC say that the reason why they need to sell the existing ground to Tesco to fund a new stadium is because there is a £15 million gap between the value of the land as housing and it’s value as retail. But the site’s value as retail is reliant on it obtaining planning permission, which is why Tesco have told City that they will only buy the land if this is achieved beforehand. Colin Sexstone insists that there is no alternative to Tesco but perhaps he needs to talk to a Bristol City fan with greater imagination – someone like Banksy.

1) Bristol City FC have the Dolman Exhibition Hall with a floorspace of 1700 sq m, plus an experienced ticketing office familiar with dealing with massive demand.

2) Banksy has made no secret of his love for Bristol City and, although he insisted on free admission for Banksy versus Bristol Museum, he also held a special "charity night" which charged a £45 entrance fee.

3) Bristol City Council has said that although they would have liked to have continued the Banksy exhibition, other events were booked in preventing an extension of the exhibition.

Combine the three and you have an opportunity to generate the £15 million funding needed for the new stadium whilst also leaving something behind for the local community that does not threaten their community and their local shops. A mixed use proposal that included housing would almost certainly get local community approval AND would place fewer obstacles in the way of planning permission being granted. Even better, Bristol City FC might even discover that the best solution for the existing football stadium is to redevelop it as a new football stadium.


  1. Brian Sewell is already a caricature of himself.

    Good point about the potential value of the Banksy exhibition. On the basis of a £30 admission charge the now closed exhibition could have raised £9 million pounds which could in turn have been used to reduce our council tax bills and/or avoid spending cuts.

    What's more an admission charge could have suppressed demand to the level where it matched the 300,000 capacity and so could have eliminated queuing, which probably averaged 3 hrs per person or almost a million person hours in total. That time would have had a value, perhaps on average £10 per hour, so admission charges could have avoided the waste of around £10 million worth of people's time, so effectively people paying a £30 admission charge could have saved themselves £30 worth of their time, so would on average be no worse off for paying for admission.

    So the net effect of admission charges would be to create extra wealth, almost £10 million of extra wealth if your figures are about right. Thanks to the economic illiteracy of the Council we have lost that £10 million of potential new wealth.

  2. Read the small print in the Post carefully and the £10m figure is based on "anecdotal evidence".

    The idea that you can build a sophisticated, sustainable city economy around selling cappuccinos to art fans and beer to football fans is, of course, mad.

    Why aren't the people running the city looking to invest in long term means of wealth generation?

    Regardless of all the bollocks talked about financial services, retail and service industries, that still means manufacturing things.

  3. At the moment we have a situation in which a temporary "benefit" of a world cup event (even here, the economic "benefits" have been shown to be illusory) will be paid for by the long term disbenefit of increased traffic congestion, damage to existing businesses and thus local jobs, plus the destruction of several acres of green space in order to replace a stadium that is currently 1/4 empty with one that will be 3/4 empty.

    This is what equates to long term means of wealth generation for both local and national politicians in 2009.

    Sustainable arse

  4. A new Tesco would undoubtedly look shit and, just being down the road from a giant Asda & Sainsburys, wouldn't make much money either. I don't know why they don't redevelop the existing ground, section by section.

    And let's be serious, we ain't getting the World Cup here. City ARE challenging for the Premiership in the next few years. But the new stadium would be putting the cart before the horses.