I was joined by colleagues of the Labour Towns Group to advance the case for a new Town of Culture award with the Minister of State for Culture this week.
This meeting follows the Westminster Hall debate, which was secured myself in January of this year. The proposal would emulate the success of the City of Culture award.
The British City of Culture scheme was first proposed by the UK Labour Government in 2009. It has proven to be of huge value to our cities. The last recipient of the award, Hull, estimates that the programme generated £60million in 2017 from visitor income and £220million additional investment. It generated 800 new jobs and saw 5million visitors.
Liverpool, one of the first holders of the title ‘City of Culture’, found that 44% of its residents expressed a positive response to the programme as it made them feel proud of where they lived.
The amount of public money which goes directly to the winning city of culture is not large. The Heritage Lottery Fund gives £3million, but central government investment does usually follow. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said Hull later received £15million in government funding, as well as £3million from Arts Council England.
A UK wide Town of Culture award would ensure that towns and their neighbouring villages could benefit from equivalent funding and investment.
The contribution of towns to our cultural heritage is all too often overlooked. Introducing a Town of Culture award would ensure that we could bring inward investment into towns and villages on a level never before seen. It would allow us to share our history and culture and demonstrate to tourists at home and abroad why they should visit communities outside of London.
We had a positive meeting with the Minister and he noted that he was supportive of the idea. The Department will undertake a review of our proposals and hold a roundtable event later this year. This is an important step forward.
I know that Holywell, Flint, Mold and Caerwys would all be great first recipients of this proposed award. We have a history which is second to none in North East Wales. A Town of Culture award would drive forward our economy, living standards and pride in our shared values.