Tracy Brabin MP: Making Sure Culture Flows Out From the Cities and Into Our Towns
Published: Tuesday 21 August 2018
As a young actor, in castings, I’d often be asked where I was from.
When I’d reply – Batley - more often than not the director would reply, ‘Batley Variety Club! That’s where all the big stars went in the 60’s!’
And it made me feel great.
International superstars such as Eartha Kitt, Louis Armstrong and Shirley Bassey brought showbiz sparkle to my working class community and it made me proud, giving me a self-confidence that maybe it was ok to dream big and want to be an actor.
I’m now an MP and Batley Variety Club is a gym. Northern towns like the ones I represent have faced a number of changes over the years. Industries closing, like wool and coal mining quickly come to mind.
But I believe that the loss of that delicious showbiz sparkle can also have a lasting impact on a community. We need that spark back, and our 2017 manifesto made great strides in this area, particularly with our commitment to upgrade cultural infrastructure and putting our world-class creative sector at the heart of our future industrial strategy.
Now I want to think about making sure culture flows out from the cities, where it is too often held, and into our towns. That’s why with Labour Towns I’m leading an investigations on how culture can bring regeneration as a force for good.
There are so many examples it’s hard to know where to look first Hull and its new status as City of Culture. Piece Hall making Halifax a go-to destination for tourists from home and abroad. Media City, putting Salford on the TV and Film production map.
But I want to get a bit deeper, behind the curtain to use an old showbiz phrase.
As a first step, I invited a handful of creative organisations working in towns to Parliament.
We heard from Creative Scene in my constituency and their amazing site-specific dance projects, installations and festivals.
Between 2013 – 16, the organisation had an astonishing 1.45m attendances at over 3,000 events – 91% of whom classified themselves as ‘not usually taking part in the arts’. We also heard from Creative Black Country and their outdoor theatre and night-time adventures, The Cultural Spring in Sunderland offering bite-sized theatre, Made in Corby and their 43,000 engagements in the arts and Heart of Glass from Merseyside who bring community right into the heart of the making of art.
These are projects that emboldened local people to own their own culture, curate and commission it for their communities, bringing new skills and job opportunities along the way.
MP’s such as Holly Lynch, Helen Goodman and David Hanson also celebrated the impact creativity and culture had on the regeneration of their towns – the Piece Hall in Halifax, the castle in Bishops Auckland and Digital Towns in Delyn.
With so much good work going on, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a problem at all. However, in Batley and Spen there are a staggering 8,572 children living in poverty. So there’s a gap we need to close.
And let’s not forget, the creative industries is the fastest growing sector in the economy and many towns could benefit from a jobs injection.
Britain is a world leader, but the truth is that there are opportunities out there that children in my constituency don’t even know about.
So let’s break those barriers down, creativity is for all and if towns are to be the best they can be, it’ll be hand in hand with culture.
And now we need your help - What festival brought your community together, or is there a great local theatre is drawing in the crowds?
What innovative poetry group is rocking out the rhymes and how do you think culture can regenerate and reinvigorate towns?
You can submit blog posts, videos from your community or local councillors and artists telling us how it is to be creative in your community.
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