No vision from Labour on culture, just empty soundbites

August 1, 2018 10:30 PM
Empty vesselsI was intrigued to read (Journal, 30 July) of the call by Newcastle Council Cabinet Member Kim McGuinness for the Government to "get behind the region's cultural assets" and to ensure that devolution helps the North East to become a "capital of culture", writes former Liberal Democrats Leader of Newcastle City Council, David Faulkner

This from a councillor whose party scrapped the independent regional arts boards when in government, the greatest blow to the arts in the North East that I can recall. Northern Arts was arguably the most successful and innovative of any of them. Labour also presided over the huge and wholly disproportionate accumulation of funding to cultural events and agencies in London, something that desperately needs to be reversed.
Five years ago Councillor McGuinness' predecessor launched a consultation on a "new vision for arts and culture in Newcastle". It petered out into nothing as he and his Labour council lost interest. Now there is no vision, no cultural strategy, just empty soundbites. No cabinet member attended the arts partnership meetings in the city or gave any practical support to its ambitions, so it changed its focus into something else.
And of course it's Labour in Newcastle who slashed the city's own arts funding to such an extent that the term "doing a Newcastle" unfortunately entered the national arts vocabulary. And before the usual cry about austerity comes from the usual Labour sources, let me just point out that there are many equally hard-pressed authorities who have not followed this route - most notably Hull of course, but let's look at even closer to home at the great things Sunderland City Council are doing in the cultural field.
We have creative people by the bucket load in Newcastle, and great arts agencies that get on with producing wonderful work . But when it comes to the council, in Newcastle we have a prime example of the phrase "empty vessels make the most noise"