Dish out the £1.5bn arts fund

I love Birmingham Rep. It’s a beautiful building and has long been one of the cultural jewels as our only producing theatre with something for everyone.

Birmingham’s reputation is built on our industrial heritage which means that many people hear Birmingham and think engineering, cars and manufacture. That’s OK until some, who’ve probably never set foot in the city, think they can disparage us. They don’t appear to know about the CBSO or Birmingham Ballet and have never experienced the joys of an evening at the Alex or Hippodrome. They won’t have visited the Museum and Art Gallery, admiring the magic of the Staffordshire Horde or our impressive pre-Raphaelite collection. And, I’m willing to bet they’re oblivious to the rich, cultural content of the youngest and most diverse city in Europe, home to the Asian music industry and all sorts of African Caribbean dance, poetry and literature.

Just imagine our city stripped of all that creativity and culture. Many of our institutions have now entered a redundancy period. There’s no telling what will be left. And of course, the cultural component of the Commonwealth Games, which depends on these institutions, is intended to be one of the highlights. Our opportunity to sell ourselves and our city.

The government announced a few weeks ago that it was making £1.57 billion available to rescue our arts, culture and heritage. It sounds a lot but Birmingham will be competing for funds with the rest of the country. However, if there’s any justice, we’ll do well because we’re entitled to both rescue money and support for the cultural content of the Games. The Chancellor’s done the right thing but now they must get a move on and announce the team responsible for allocating and distributing those funds. I hope, for once, there will be some Brummie supporters among them because this is the chance to save our wonderful institutions and the Games. This is one issue where there should be no party politics. Everyone should be out there batting for us, determined to show just how rich, cultured and diverse a city we are.

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Steve McCabe

Steve McCabe is the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak, and has been an MP continuously since 1 May 1997.

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