Sheffield has a vibrant arts and culture scene, with world-class theatres, innovative museums and galleries, a thriving music scene, strong independent cinema at the Showroom, a great cultural industries quarter – and more artists than any city outside London. Arts and culture are not just vital for the quality of our lives, but also for economic growth. I’ve made the case for the arts and challenged the Government cuts and regional funding imbalances that are holding our city back.
Supporting arts funding
I led a Parliamentary debate on regional arts funding after a major report highlighted the huge imbalance between the £68.99 per head spent in London in 2012/13, compared with just £4.58 in the rest of England. You can watch the debate here. I’ve also challenged the Government over specific funding decisions, as with Museums Sheffield in 2012. I met with the Arts Council Chief Executive Darren Henley at the start of this Parliament to discuss the work that they are doing to support the arts in Sheffield.
Council cuts and the arts
The arts depend on a combination of national and local funding. The disproportionate cuts to local councils in areas like ours have had a damaging impact. Museums Sheffield for example, one of Sheffield’s two successful museum trusts, welcomes 1 million visitors a year. But since 2012 it’s lost 40% of its staff, because of budget cuts. I’ve consistently challenged cuts to our Council, co-ordinating the ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’ campaign, pressing the case with Treasury Ministers and leading a delegation to the Prime Minister. Now Councils are facing the loss of all remaining Government grant during this Parliament, something I’ll continue to oppose.
Standing up for the BBC
The BBC is an extraordinary national asset, with a proud history of immensely popular high quality programmes. After receiving hundreds of emails in support of the BBC I spoke out against Government plans, which could harm its ability to create popular programming and undermine its independence. I have also made the case for the importance of local radio services, and spoken in Parliament about the value of BBC Radio Sheffield.
After my complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) The Sun agreed to publish an apology and correction for their inaccurate article describing Manor as ‘Britain’s worst estate’. I have also asked the Culture Secretary to talk to newspaper editors about how they can improve social cohesion and ensure their reporting doesn’t contribute to division and hatred.
Backing local groups
Alongside meeting up with the heads of local arts organisations, I support local groups wherever possible – like the Sheffield Visual Arts Group and Sheffield Live – and have been involved in fundraising for the theatres, museums and galleries. I’ve also met and supported heritage groups like the Friends of Sheffield Castle, Lodge, Walkley History project and Our Broomhall.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.