Town of Culture Award

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:32 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Shadow Minister (Wales) 5:32 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 the debate.

I fully support the call for a town of culture for the UK. Culture plays a huge part in our economy—it is worth £90 billion a year. One in every 11 jobs is in the cultural industries. The percentage of our GDP spent on goods is going down; the percentage spent on experience is going up. The UK is a world leader in music, theatre, film, literature, architecture and design, but that has been too closely focused in cities. We need to expand that to towns. We need to increase the amount spent by central Government on culture, which is 0.4% of GDP, even though it produces 9% of jobs.

I was approached recently by creatives in my home town of Rhyl, who want to use creativity to encourage regeneration. They reminded me of the great people from my town who have been involved in the creative industries: Mike Peters and The Alarm; Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps; Nerys Hughes from “The Liver Birds”; Lee Evans the comedian; Adrian Henri, the beat poet, who worked in a fairground in Rhyl; Carol Vorderman, who was educated in Rhyl; Paul Higginson, my friend, who is chief executive officer of 20th Century Fox in Europe, Africa and the middle east; and Sara Sugarman, the Hollywood film director. We have had a folk club in Rhyl for 55 years, a musical theatre for 100 years, a brass band for 120 years, a classical music group for 70 years, and the first purpose-built children’s theatre in the whole of the United Kingdom.

I ask Members to look at examples of seaside towns. Where arts come, regeneration follows. St Ives was regenerated around the Tate gallery. Margate is regenerating as we speak, as a result of Tracey Emin and her art. Southport is regenerating through the Gormley statues, and the billionaire Roger De Haan has invested his own money—tens of millions of pounds—in art and creativity to regenerate the town of Folkestone.

We should tap into the passion in the Chamber, so that we can be leaders in our towns and communities, and ensure that culture plays its proper part in the regeneration of our towns.