Investing in culture in the north of England will be vital to the economic recovery and levelling up agendas, according to a cross-party report by northern MPs.
Published this week following an inquiry by the Northern Culture All-Party Parliamentary Group, The Case for Culture presents evidence that “northern culture has a critical role to play in achieving economic growth and upskilling ambitions for the UK as whole”.
Led by Conservative MP James Daly and Labour MP Julie Elliott, the inquiry heard from stakeholders across the north, including cultural leaders, mayors, local councillors and MPs.
The inquiry showed there is a “cross party consensus” on pan-northern cultural asks and priorities, the report says.
It describes the post-Covid period as a “once in a generation opportunity” to establish a “whole new vision for the north in which investment in the cultural sector is at the heart of plans to supercharge recovery”.
Among the museum and heritage sector respondents, Sheffield Museums Trust called for “a strong northern brand, high profile ambassadors and a confident, consistent media presence. Working together, we could have a northern cultural network, bringing northern cultural consortia and leaders together”.
Manchester Museum highlighted the capacity of culture to repurpose high streets and heritage sites and called for greater incentives for smaller organisations to support this.
Historic England said: “The north is like nowhere else in the world, and its interlinked heritage, culture, places and landscapes are a vital part of the region’s diverse and unique identity.”
The report sets out a 10-point action plan for the north, calling on the government to – among other things – invest in next generation creatives, transform tech to unlock growth, “inextricably link and promote” health and culture, and promote creative leadership in the region.
In the report’s foreword, co-chairs Daly and Elliott write: “Our Case for Culture report makes it clear that it is time to maximise the social and economic benefits which stem from our cultural assets and time to tap into the north’s rich seam of talent – if we are to unlock the north’s cultural capital and truly level-up.”
Museums Association director Sharon Heal welcomed the report and said investment in the region’s museums is urgently needed as local authority budgets are cut.
She said: “It is great to see cross-party support for culture in the north of England. The report recognises that culture can have a life-changing impact on people’s lives and that access to culture for all is needed now more than ever.
“However we know that local authorities in the north of England will be struggling to set budgets and that museums as non-statutory services are facing an extremely challenging future. The MA’s report into local authority funding for museums charts a decline in investment over the past ten years and we are working with museum leaders and local government to make a strong case for investment in museums and the role that they can play in the recovery from the pandemic.
“The report does much to expose the disproportionate impact of Covid on the north of England in terms of health and wellbeing and we support its recommendations for investment now to stop the decline in cultural infrastructure and to secure a sustainable future for cultural organisations in the north.”