I recently secured a debate in Westminster Hall which called on the UK Government to establish a new ‘Town of Culture’ award. This award would operate in a similar way to the City of Culture Award and would give winning towns investment into the arts and culture scene in their locality.
The idea for the ‘Town of Culture’ award was created by the Labour Towns Group, a group made up of Labour MPs who represent towns in England, Wales and Scotland.
The City of Culture Award has proven to be of huge value to our cities. The last recipient of the award, Hull, estimates that that programme generated £60 million in 2017 along from visitor income and additional drive. It generated 800 new jobs, 5 million visitors and £220 million of additional investment.
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.
Delyn comprises of four towns: Flint, Holywell, Mold and Caerwys. Each of them is steeped in cultural history and would be prime candidates to be awarded the prestigious title of ‘Town of Culture’.
The Westminster Hall debate was one of the most subscribed to debates of the day, with 21 MPs from all parties calling for the UK Government to implement this award. At the end of the debate the Minister for Culture, Michael Ellis MP, committed to meet with MPs to discuss the path forward.
A new ‘Town of Culture’ award would unlock huge potential of towns up and down the country. It would allow people to say, “We aspire to do better, to improve 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 activities support by local councils. We have to give back to the community and support that for the future.
We only have to look at Liverpool and Hull to see the huge impact gaining the title of City of Culture gave them. I want us to be able to celebrate our towns just as much as our cities. Towns have just as much to give, if not more, are our large urban areas.
Not only would this award allow us to showcase our town’s past but also inspire future generations. There are worrying signs that the number of working class children getting involved in the arts is dwindling. Holding cultural events, like plays and concerts, would allow children to be inspired. If you don’t see it you can’t be it.