In Greater Manchester, the importance to our area of the cultural sector cannot be overstated. The visitor economy in GM is worth £2.6 billion per annum and supports 105,000 jobs. The digital and creative industries are worth £4.4 billion gross value added each year and support 78,500 jobs. Music alone contributes £169 million to the regional economy every year. However, we must not see culture and the arts as the preserve of cities and established cultural centres. In Bury, The Met theatre is a creative hub, hosting everything from Shakespeare to live comedy and its fantastic annual beer festival. Just as importantly, the pandemic has shone a light on the incredible work it does in the wider community, working with children from all backgrounds. I am delighted that it received Government support during lockdown.
In my constituency, the East Lancashire Railway is an iconic heritage asset. It is crucial to the visitor economy and supports jobs and skills, and is a direct working link to our past. Steam engines, as I am sure everyone will agree, are things of beauty. Culture takes many different forms throughout the country. ELR has received Government funding during lockdown, which has ensured its survival.
The Fusilier Museum is central to my town’s sense of identity as the proud home of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Again, I am thankful for the Government funding it received to continue its important cultural and heritage role within Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington.
Culture, however, means different things to different people. I would argue strongly that Gigg Lane, the historical home of Bury FC, is both a cultural and heritage asset. It is central to the identity of thousands of my constituents. Away from sport, Bury currently has no relatively large-scale outdoor stadium venue where concerts and other live events can be held. Sport, community, history and culture are intimately entwined.
The opportunities to use culture as a means of increasing opportunity and life chances, and supporting the local economy, must be supported nationally and locally. The Co-op theatre in Ramsbottom is a rare surviving example of a music hall from the 1870s. It is of national significance because of the original interior features still in situ. Most of the building has not been used for years, but its rebirth will be transformational for everyone who lives and works in the town. The building inspires and is loved by locals. If the community, together with the public and private sector, can work in partnership to deliver a unique cultural asset for everyone to enjoy, the residents of Bury North will see the power of culture to transform lives on their very doorstep.