Town of Culture Award

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:14 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Labour, Slough 5:14 pm, 23rd January 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate my right hon. Friend David Hanson on securing this important debate, about which I am very keen—so keen, in fact, that my recent column in the Slough Express was entirely devoted to a town of culture award.

Slough is on the up: we have moved on from John Betjeman’s poem. We want no friendly bombs, there is grass for cows to graze, we do not just eat tinned food and it is certainly fit for humans now. We are keen to show that we have a lot more than just David Brent and “The Office” to offer. Slough is a fantastic, diverse cultural melting pot and now it has become a major business, creative and cultural powerhouse, with Pinewood Studios right on our doorstep. A lot of people from Slough are working there, contributing to our collective national culture and increasing our collective national pride in our country.

We have the iconic old Adelphi cinema in Slough, where the Beatles performed on more than one occasion. The council and other organisations are doing brilliant work. We have the Slough youth awards, which exemplify the magnificent creativity of our young people. I think our town would do very well if we were competing with other towns up and down the country.

I impress on the Minister that there is so much support for this idea: we would be obliged if he confirmed that an annual town of culture prize rather than just a city of culture prize would be conferred. If it comes to sharing the money more fairly, current statistics show that Arts Council funding is more than four times higher on average in city constituencies than in town constituencies. About 70% of Arts Council national portfolio theatre grants awarded in 2015 to 2018 went to cities, with a pitiful 12% awarded to towns. The current scenario is not good enough; our towns are being left behind.

Many people from working-class backgrounds, residing in towns, are being excluded from arts and culture. Our communities can benefit. I am well aware that there are many different Members wanting to speak, so I will bring my points to a conclusion, but please, please let us have the annual town of culture award.