CULTURAL BOARD: Plans for a new Yorkshire ‘national’ theatre
Kala Sangam arts centre in Bradford where the meeting took place, Image: Google Maps
Plans for a new Yorkshire ‘national’ theatre, a Town of Culture and new creative cooperative were among the issues discussed at the first meeting of a new cultural board.
The Culture, Arts and Creative Industries Committee includes representatives from groups ranging from Bradford Literature Festival, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bradford Bulls and Bradford Council, and met in Kala Sangam in Bradford yesterday.
The committee was set up by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, and yesterday’s meeting was described as a “milestone” in supporting West Yorkshire’s arts and cultural industries as they recover from the pandemic.
It will have a major say in where funding is allocated and how the industry can be supported.
Ms Brabin opened the meeting by saying: “For me the opportunity here is massive, coming out of Covid we can build a cultural life for people may have had no access to arts and culture in the past.
“People choose places to live that has a good cultural offer, often above whether it has a good school. We want to make our towns, cities and villages magnets for people by providing a good cultural offer.”
The meeting heard that in West Yorkshire the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports sector, which also includes tourism, employed 167,000 people, around 15 per cent of the workforce.
Members were told that these jobs were “disproportionately represented” in Leeds, with well over half the cultural, sport and tourism jobs in West Yorkshire.
Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, said: “The majority of the activity is in Leeds, which you would expect as it is the biggest economy in West Yorkshire, but it is much bigger than the other districts. We need to understand what constraints there are in other areas that might be holding them back.”
One of Ms Brabin’s pledges when she became Mayor was for a “creative new deal” for the region. This included the development of a “theatre without walls” that would include creating a Yorkshire Youth Theatre, and be inspired by the National Theatre of Scotland.
Ms Brabin told the committee: “We might not be able to have a national theatre, but we can have a Yorkshire Theatre that would be made up of Yorkshire voices, Yorkshire stories, Yorkshire writers and Yorkshire talent.”
Kamran Rashid, of Impact Hub Bradford said many residents who wanted to make it in the arts had to move to London to access places like Rada.
He said: “Rather than sending our talent down there, what can we do to incentivise groups like that to move here?”
The meeting also discussed plans to create a Town of Culture award that would see an area of West Yorkshire given the accolade every two years.
Ms Brabin said: “It is my desire to get the cultural offer to towns and villages. People are coming from places like Batley to Leeds to access arts and culture. We want them to be able to access it in their own town.”
She asked members their thoughts on the Town of Culture plan.
Ms England said it was important that the award did not prove “divisive” by pitting areas against each other. She added: “We don’t want to do what the Government does and turn it into a competitive bidding process when we should all be working together.
“I support the ambition, but I think it would be best to focus on areas of cultural ‘cold spots.'”
Syima Aslam, of Bradford Literature Festival, pointed out the huge effort that had gone into the push for Bradford to be longlisted for 2025 City of Culture, adding: “We need to make sure that the towns and villages that get this new title have the capacity and resources to pull it off.”
The Committee will next meet in January.
Words: Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter
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