Art for Arts Sake

There was a report earlier this week which showed that arts and cultural activities are subsidised from the public purse to the tune of £70 per head of population in London, but that the equivalent figure for the rest of England is a paltry £5 per person.

Despite this funding imbalance, many towns and cities outside of London have a thriving cultural scene. For example, last night I attended the preview of the new  Transmitting Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Liverpool. It was, along with the Everyman Theatre winning the Stirling Prize last month, a reminder of how Liverpool has made great efforts in recent years to reinvent itself as a destination for cultural tourism.

There are countless other examples across the UK, including the Sage in Gateshead, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the V&A Museum of Design which is soon to open in Dundee.

There seems little doubt that a healthy cultural life is very important to a city. Not only does it enhance the local economy by attracting visitors to the area, it also promotes a feel good factor and helps to boost civic pride.

I suppose that we have to be realistic and expect that London will always get a large share of arts expenditure. After all, it is the UK’s capital city and as such is home to many of our national cultural institutions

Maybe we need to think outside of the box a bit here. Is there any reason why these national treasures have to be based in expensive, and often outdated, sites in Central London when they might just as easily be housed in one of our regional cities? Relocating some of these institutions “up North” would help to tackle the North / South divide and be a real boost to the regions. For example, can anyone think of a good reason for not moving the National Theatre from that concrete monstrosity on the South Bank to modern purpose built premises in the likes of Leeds or Newcastle? Just a thought!

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