Culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the event would be a 'festival of national pride'

Should museums play a part in the "festival of Brexit"?

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 03.10.2018
Government announces plans for celebration of "national renewal" in 2022
The prime minister Theresa May has announced plans for a £120m UK-wide festival in 2022 to mark the "national renewal" that she says will take place following the UK's departure from the EU.

Announcing the plans at the start of the Tory party conference this week, May said the festival would showcase the UK's talent in the arts, business, technology and sport, with events taking place all around the country. It aims to emulate the 1951 Festival of Britain, which offered a futuristic vision for rebuilding the country after the war.

She said: "Britain once again stands on the cusp of a new future as an outward-facing global trading nation. And just as millions of Britons celebrated their nation's great achievements in 1951, we want to showcase what makes our country great today.

"We want to capture that spirit for a new generation, celebrate our nation's diversity and talent and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration."

The plans were met with humour and derision on social media, with some commentators joking that the event would be a "fête worse than death". Others pointed out, however, that the year chosen for the festival was insensitive as it marked the centenary of the partition of Ireland.

The Labour MP David Lammy said the proposed festival was "historically illiterate", tweeting: "The Labour government's 1951 Festival of Britain marked a new era of growth and international cooperation. The opposite of where this Tory government is taking us."

The recently appointed culture secretary Jeremy Wright also referenced the festival in one of his first major speeches since taking over the role in July. Wright told the Tory conference that the proposed event would be a "festival of national pride and international impact" that would celebrate the strengths of the UK's creative industries, including heritage, history and the arts.

Wright used his speech to send a strongly worded message about Brexit, saying: "To all those who can't get over the referendum result, to those who seek to avoid it or ignore it, and to those who want to do it all over again, I say it's time to move on.

"Leaving the European Union in a way that gives us the best possible platform for the future is something we can do, but it is one of the most complex and challenging things the United Kingdom has ever had to do, and we don't have a single talent or intellect to waste in that effort. So however you voted then, help to build our future now."

Elsewhere in his speech, Wright celebrated figures showing that record numbers of tourists had visited areas of the UK outside London this year, including four million visitors who travelled to Newcastle-Gateshead during this summer's Great Exhibition of the North. He said he would work with the tourism industry to ensure it was recognised as a major employer and contributor to the economy.

Should museums play a part in "festival of Brexit"? Vote in our poll and have your say.


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06.10.2018, 00:13
You won't convince people, Mr Wright, to accept a new state of affairs by just telling them 'it is time to move on'. Language is important but so are statistics. The people did not vote for Brexit: 52% voted for it and 48% voted against. That is not much of an endorsement, the Government should be mindful of that and it is no surprise that the decision is contested and will continue to be so.

The museum sector will take part as heritage is one of our great tourist assets, otherwise the Festival will be as vacuous as the Millennium Dome was in 2000, but surely the scriptwriters of Global Britain can come up with a better title than 'Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.' Overall they had better move fast because leaving the EU has put more strain on the ties holding the nations of the UK together than any other policy decision.
04.10.2018, 16:54
I ask myself, when I see these polls, whether the absence of a "don't know" option is really sensible. What if respondents are not sure how they will feel after March 2019? What if they cannot predict how they will feel in a year's time?