Arts Council wants to ‘level up’ in the North. But will we notice?
Arts Council England has published its three-year Delivery Plan for 2021–2024, and announced a commitment to greater support for cultural investment across the North of England, naming Kirklees as one of 15 priority places in the North where it wants to develop new opportunities.
The plan sets out what is described as a detailed roadmap to implement the vision of its strategy Let’s Create: ‘by 2030 England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences.’
It is not yet clear what this will mean for Kirklees, nor what we can expect to see by way of investment in cultural assets. It is clear that the town lacks rehearsal and production facilities and the concert hall is badly in need of renewal, so if Arts Council funding could help the council to deliver these as part of its declared ‘Cultural Heart’ development plans, the Society would be the first to give three resounding cheers.
But it all seems a bit like talks about talks. What will this mean on the ground? What scale of resources are we talking about?
Pete Massey is Director, North for Arts Council England and acknowledges the area’s strong musical traditions. He said: ‘The launch of our Delivery Plan … and the announcement of our priority places will see us working closely with partners across Kirklees to ensure that creativity and culture can play a key role in levelling up across the North. The Government’s Culture Recovery Fund has provided a lifeline to arts and cultural organisations during the pandemic. It is important that we now continue to invest in the cultural sector to ensure everyone across the country can access art and culture no matter where they live.’
Councillor Will Simpson is Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees. In welcoming the Arts Council plan he said: ‘We look forward to working with Arts Council England to achieve our considerable cultural ambitions, like the Year of Music 2023 and the development of the Cultural Heart in Huddersfield Town Centre.
‘By placing culture at the heart of our community and economic regeneration plans – and with the support of ACE to attract the investment required to deliver – we can ensure that our communities can not only recover from the events of the last couple of years, but thrive as we move forward, together.’
I hope this means that the statutory bodies will direct real resource into making the Year of Music deliver lasting benefits, and I hope it means using public money intelligently to lever in investment in our venues and facilities.
But will it? This talk of ‘roadmaps’ and the airy strategic aims ‘By 2030 England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued’ – is hardly a rallying cry. Our real cultural assets are the people and organisations which form the fabric of our musical life – the choirs, the bands, the Huddersfield and Slaithwaite Phils, the gospellers and the Asian drummers, Musica Kirklees, the teachers, the Friday night rockers and rappers, the jazz and folk festivals – and yes, the granddaddy of them all, the Choral. Will these be touched and fortified?