Town of Culture Award

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:59 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 4:59 pm, 23rd January 2019

As I said, a number of things are happening in Flint. They could all be celebrated by the people and that painting could return as part of being a town of culture.

Without revisiting my maiden speech, I should say that another important place in my constituency, when it comes to this debate, is Mold—a town of 10,000 people. The Mold gold cape is an ancient gold object currently in the British Museum: it is not being displayed in Mold. Let me turn to culture. Mold has Theatr Clwyd, the only production company in the United Kingdom owned by a local authority. It produces plays, some of which will shortly be in the west end. We have a food festival and a Novemberfest beer festival, as well as art installations through the town. This summer marks the 150th anniversary of the Mold riots, in which four miners and one bystander were shot dead. We will be having a community play in the town this summer to commemorate that, which will involve people and make them feel part of the history of the town.

We have a blues and soul festival, the eisteddfod, and the Daniel Owen festival, which is a major Welsh language poetry festival, in the town. We have the football. Rhys Ifans, who people will know from “Notting Hill”, came from Mold, as did Jonny Buckland, one of the guitarists in Coldplay. Siân Gibson, who is in “Peter Kay’s Car Share”, is currently resident in Mold. There is a cultural appetite and there are cultural aspirations for people to do things in the future.

In Holywell, in my constituency—where the actor Jonathan Pryce was born—there is the Well Inn music festival, as well as a country music and line-dancing festival and the Cadi Ha Welsh dancing festival. There are also heritage walks and the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park, which has historic buildings on display.

The smallest town in my constituency is Caerwys, with just over 1,500 people, but the eisteddfod held there in 1523 and 1568 led to the first ever legislation to control minstrels and bands, which was passed by Elizabeth I’s Parliament in 1588.

There is a cultural history that people need to understand and celebrate, but it also has an economic impact. Theatr Clwyd, as a major production theatre, employs hundreds of people and produces quality plays. Flintshire County Council invests something like £750,000 into the theatre. For every pound it invests in that theatre, we get an external economic impact within Flintshire of £8 and across north-east Wales, including Wrexham, of over £10. That is because people come to the theatre, but they also go to the shop and the petrol station, stay in a hotel and eat in a restaurant. They support the local economy in that theatre by buying goods for sale in the local theatre, and by spending their wages in the theatre. It has an economic impact.

Flint, Mold, Holywell and Caerwys are all supported by their local councils, which are active and engaged, and invest ratepayers’ resource in supporting activities. Mold, Flint and Holywell happen to be Labour-controlled councils that are investing, supporting and sponsoring activity that is having an economic impact. I hope the Minister will recognise that and look at how we can celebrate and promote it, and be engaged by it. With due respect to those three towns, great as they are, Flint, Mold and Holywell cannot compete with the cities of Hull or Liverpool, in terms of their scale or ambition. What they can do is have great activity in their own world, which the town can celebrate and look to promote in the future.

The central ask today, from all of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is for us to relish the chance for those four towns, and every town that those of us here represent, to be able to say, “We aspire to do better, to increase our economy, to engage with our community and to put culture at the heart of our towns.” All our towns have had that in the past—through miners welfare clubs, social clubs and a whole range of activity. We have to give that back to the community and support that for the future.

There is a city culture, which is a great thing that we relish, welcome and appreciate, but the challenge for the Minister is that there is scope for a town of culture within that. The Minister has the chance to encourage investment, to reignite county pride, to celebrate history and culture, to encourage diversity, to promote ambition and to nurture talent. I hope that he takes that chance today.