Arts and Culture

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A generation of young people will be 'intellectually poorer, emotionally more limited and socially more isolated' unless they are allowed access to a full range of arts and culture.

A report by the campaign group the Cultural Learning Alliance, describing itself as a 'call to arms' says there has been a decline in the number of children in England taking arts subjects, a reduction in arts teaching hours and fewer arts teachers employed in schools. Beyond school, informal programmes for young people have suffered due to local authority cuts.

I recently spent a day in Corby talking to the councillors and officers about the amazing work around culture and sportĀ  that is going on there. Tom Watson, who has the Shadow Portfolio for Culture and Sport was in Corby for the first of his fact-findingĀ  visits for the Communities for Culture Taskforce.

Tom writes ' Thanks to the good Labour councillors of Corby, in particular culture lead John McGhee, who showed me how a Labour authority, against a backdrop of huge imposed cuts, have protected arts and sports services for local people.'

Tom went on to say how he had hated art at school, but having sat with an art group at the Rooftop Gallery and drawn a lemon, he admitted it had been the most fun he had had that week! He added 'One thing I'm beginning to understand more - local arts policy should focus on participation not just curation.'

The Arts Council England have set up a Cultural Citizens Programme hoping to address the problems of low participation in the arts among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds; also to address the fact that UK arts audiences are overwhelmingly white and middle class. Unless we do something about this a generation of young people will be 'intellectually poorer, emotionally more limited and socially more isolated' if they are denied access.

Corby has shown how this can be achieved and I have registered my interest and commitment to the work underway by the Communities for Culture Taskforce and shall be keeping up with their progress.

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