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Northern Powerhouse: Arts Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield 9:30 am, 3rd March 2016

What plans the Government has to support the northern powerhouse through funding for the arts.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I am pleased to say that there is strong support for the arts within the northern powerhouse project. For example, there is investment in the Factory in Manchester, as well as our backing for the Hull city of culture project and, of course, the Great Exhibition of the north.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement and his plans for the future. This year sees the return of the Barnaby festival in Macclesfield, with over 100 events, 250 artists and performers—of course, all visitors are welcome. Does he agree that, with £90,000 of Arts Council funding joining the mix of private and public funding, that is a perfect example of how arts funding can help to add fuel to the northern powerhouse?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I agree with that. I understand that the funding has helped, for example, to make the festival director a paid position for the first time. It is a great example of how the Arts Council is working with organisations all over the country, but particularly in the north, to support our world-class arts and heritage.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Opposition Whip (Commons)

As the Minister will know, the Royal Photographic Society’s archive was recently threatened with being moved from Bradford’s National Media Museum to London. What assessment has he made of the impact of such a move on cultural provision within Bradford, the wider Yorkshire region and, indeed, the northern powerhouse?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I have been closely involved with the Science Museum on the future of the National Media Museum, and I am pleased that it is now being put on a firmer footing. However, I would say to the hon. Lady that there is extensive support for the arts in Bradford, with something like £9 million of Arts Council funding. I point her to the excellent article by the chief executive of the Arts Council about the support it is giving to Bradford.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Minister shows great artistry in the picture he paints, but we know that the regions were already losing out on arts funding by a ratio of 14:1 before the Chancellor chose to chop billions from northern local authorities struggling to maintain arts for all. The Sutton report last week said that the arts are becoming less and less accessible. Does the Minister agree that the arts are far too important to our culture and our identity to be left in the hands of a privileged few?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I would certainly agree with the hon. Lady on that. Our forthcoming White Paper will announce new measures to increase access to the arts, but we have already supported, for example, music education hubs, extended the In Harmony scheme and introduced new schemes for the arts in schools. So I take great issue with her implicit criticism that we are not doing anything to increase access to the arts.