Ashfield MP wants to put area’s towns back on the map

Gloria De Piero MP
Gloria De Piero MP

It can often feel like our towns are overshadowed by nearby big cities in nearly every way, writes Gloria De Piero MP.

That is why I am backing an excellent idea spearheaded by Yvette Cooper MP and the Labour Towns Group (LTG), which I am part of, to create a Town of Culture award.

Anyone who has been to Hull or Liverpool will be able to see the positive effects that being awarded the UK or European City of Culture award can have.

Around £60 million of visitor income was generated when Hull was UK city of culture in 2017.

It created 800 new jobs and attracted £220 million of initial investment.

I want this to be replicated in towns like Sutton, Kirkby or Eastwood.

Giving towns the chance to compete for a Town of Culture award could be the catalyst for change in areas that have long needed it.

Think of the effect a year’s worth of cultural events could have on Eastwood, the birthplace of DH Lawrence, or Kirkby, where playwright James Graham grew up.

The boost in visitor numbers would boost trade for the area’s pubs, restaurants, shops, creating new jobs.

Cities are almost always chosen for big infrastructure projects, big capital investment and big ideas, but that needs to change.

It will obviously take more than a culture award to reverse decades of decline in former mining and industrial towns.

However even just applying for the award could do an enormous amount of good for an area, encouraging residents and businesses to think creatively and ambitiously in their plans.

It could be the first step in putting these places on the country’s culture map and be the starting point for investment and job creation.

The award process would also mean National Lottery funding from the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund would be required to focus on towns.

Last week, I spoke in a debate in Parliament on this and LTG is requesting a meeting with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to discuss it. I will update you on the outcome.