Arts Council England Funding: Coalfield Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 20th February 2018.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee 10:00 pm, 20th February 2018

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I merely say that when it comes to the English coalfields, we are talking about zero, zero, zero, zero, year after year. So the young people are reliant on the schools, which do their best, but we all know that schools funding has been tight. Schools funding for the arts has been tight for successive Governments—this goes back to the Labour Government as well. It has always been tight, but it has got tighter. Where someone wants to be creative in music in Bassetlaw, there is no facility available in the community for them. Where someone wants to go into the world of theatre, they find that no youth drama is being funded by the national Arts Council. The amounts of money that are there ought to be spread to some extent, to allow us to do things.

When we bid for money, the way the Arts Council works is that it says, “We’ll give you a consultant. One of our consultants.” That consultant will advise the Arts Council on what should be done. It is a closed shop within the arts world, where they give someone they know the contract to bid for money from themselves and none of it gets into the former coalfield communities. It is a scandal. The Arts Council needs to have the integrity to open up opportunities to give us the chance to demonstrate that where we do not have the arts infrastructure to bid for money, we can do it in a different way, with its assistance, without needing that infrastructure. Where people have the time, wisdom, inclination and skills, coming from the arts world, I do not begrudge them their brilliant ideas, inventiveness and claims in respect of facilities that already exist. If those facilities were in my constituency, I would be proposing the same. But is this fair on the national level? What about not just the education but the health, not least the mental health, of young people and the importance of the arts to them?