Katherine Parkinson: council investment in culture changes lives

Actress, writer and Campaign for the Arts supporter Katherine Parkinson has addressed the largest local government conference in the country, telling councillors and council officers that “there is a direct link between the faith and actions of local councils and the quality of UK culture on the national and international stage”.

At the LGA Conference in Bournemouth, Katherine Parkinson emphasised the importance of continued local government investment in the arts following a 50% decline in per-person revenue funding in England since 2010.

She also announced that the Campaign for the Arts will deliver the Hearts for the Arts Awards in 2024, in partnership with the LGA, in order to celebrate the life-changing work of councils, councillors and council officers who make a strong commitment to the arts.

Transcript of the speech

Hello and thank you for inviting me to your party.

I wish I could be physically with you in Bournemouth, but the joys of childcare mean I’m embracing the ‘local’ part of local government by not leaving the house.

In any case it’s wonderful to be able to say a few words about the arts and local government today – two vitally important things that give so much to one another.

I’m sure you know that councils are the largest public funders of the arts in England. Through that funding and through non-financial support, they play – you all play – a crucial role in enabling people to make and experience art.

The arts also play a crucial role in supporting local communities all over the country. As the LGA’s recent ‘Cornerstones of Culture’ report showed, cultural services make people’s lives better and can relieve pressures on councils across a range of policy areas.

We know that there is currently a crisis in mental health, especially amongst our young people. But we also know that local access to the arts can significantly improve health and wellbeing, even for those with long-term conditions.

We know that people want to be proud of their area, and feel a greater sense of belonging. But we also know that the arts can revitalise local places and strengthen local communities. That they are a catalyst for economic growth and a social glue.

Investment in the arts is a sound investment in all of our futures. It’s why many of us are concerned by the very significant, 50% reduction in per-person revenue funding that we’ve seen since 2010. And by the huge declines in access to arts opportunities in state schools over recent years.

But it’s also why we should seize the opportunity now to make the case for the arts in every community, and strengthen our local cultural services for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I have seen first hand the remarkable impact and legacy of councils who do so.

In 2018, I was opening a new play called Home, I’m Darling at Theatr Clwyd in North Wales. The theatre was built almost 50 years ago by Flintshire (then Clwyd) County Council. The council’s inspirational chief executive T.M. Haydn Rees believed that everyone in the community should have access to outstanding art and culture, and in the face of some opposition at the time, the council invested £2million in Theatr Clwyd’s construction.

Today, it is the largest producing theatre in Wales. The spectacular set and beautiful costumes that were made in Flintshire for Home I’m Darling came with us when the show transferred to the National Theatre in London, then to the West End, and then on a UK tour. Flintshire County Council remains an essential part of the success story, as a major funder of Theatr Clwyd and one of the top 5 councils in Wales for per-person funding of cultural and heritage services.

There is a direct link between the faith and actions of local councils and the quality of UK culture on the national and international stage.

That’s one reason why the Campaign for the Arts will once again be running the Hearts for the Arts awards next year, in partnership with the LGA.

As an actor, I am fortunate that if my work affects people, often they let me know about it with applause or rotten fruit. These awards are about celebrating the work of councillors and council officers who might not get much applause or fan mail, but whose commitment to the arts is extraordinary and changes lives.

There will be absolutely no rotten fruit involved. But what there will be is an opportunity for you to nominate your own councils later this year. So please do look out for details, sign up at CampaignForTheArts.org to receive updates, or speak to Jack Gamble, the director of the Campaign for the Arts, who is with you in the room today.

All that remains for me to do is to say thank you to everyone in this room who has been supporting the arts and culture over these last few, very challenging years.

And to say a special thank you to Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is stepping down as the Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board after six years. I know from talking with Samuel West and the team at the Campaign for the Arts how much Gerald has been a tireless advocate for local authority investment in culture across the country, as well as in his native Portsmouth.

Thank you.

Picture of CFTA Team


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