Town of Culture Award

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:54 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:54 pm, 23rd January 2019

I cannot speak for the Secretary of State, but I will agree to meet. We will set that up, and I am happy to do so.

My Department believes that place-based cultural investment should be a key part of the local growth strategy for all towns and cities in England. The cultural development fund, which has already been mentioned and was launched in 2018, is a £20 million competitive fund to support towns and cities to develop and implement transformative, cultural and creative growth plans. Just last week the Secretary of State announced the winners: Grimsby, Plymouth, the Thames estuary, Wakefield and Worcester.

Grimsby will receive £3.2 million to deliver a new programme of international events and public art to revive the town centre, provide a business support programme for local creative businesses, and create new production facilities in the town’s historic centre. The Thames estuary will receive £4.3 million. The cultural development fund and the UK city of culture projects are exemplars of local enterprise partnerships. We also welcome the innovation of local areas developing their own initiatives to celebrate local culture. For example, the Liverpool borough of culture and the London borough of culture are attempts to broaden the impacts of cultural titles and moments to areas beyond city centres.

I want to stick up for Arts Council England. Some 75% of its funding goes outside London—it is being distributed widely. We of course have to bear in mind that large centres of population are within cities, but my experience of Arts Council England is that it recognises that its role is to spread its resources around the country, which it is doing. Some 9.2 million people saw British Museum exhibitions and objects on show outside the museum in 2017-18, and more than 2,500 objects were loaned to 126 venues around the country.

A lot of work is already being done in this area. I am very happy to meet colleagues and interested partners to discuss the matter further, and I am keeping the situation under review. My Department and the Government recognise the value of culture. It is a precious part of our community life and has multiple assets and benefits. We will continue to support it.