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“Cornwall is full of creative and cultural happenings, events and opportunities, all of which can provide exciting and compelling gateways for locals and visitors alike to experience a deeper sense of the region, enhancing their bond with the place” – Cornwall 365
News that Brussels has finally said that the UK will not be allowed to host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 because of Brexit has been heralded as a ‘lucky escape’ for Cornwall today.
As you’ll no doubt remember, in January the Council’s announcement that it wanted to put aside £0.5m to support a Cornish bid caused no end of criticism, fuelled by a Tory media campaign that kick started an imminent election.
The Cornish bid never got going and Adam Paynter finally put it out of its misery the moment he became Leader of the Council.
In the end, despite the warnings that exactly what has happened now would happen, 5 UK cities were ready to bid for the European Capital of Culture – Dundee, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Leeds, and Belfast. The European Commission waited until the UK cities had submitted their bids before “communicating this new position to us”. All of the cities had prepared glossy brochures as a bid tool, and some had spent far more than the £500,000 that Julian German had wanted to bring Cornwall to this stage. The DCMS has said it “disagreed” with the European Commission’s stance and was “deeply disappointed”.
Deputy Leader of the Conservatives on Cornwall Council, James Mustoe, was at the time of the ill-fated Cornish bid one of the ringleaders of the Tory offensive against what they saw as a pointless waste of money.
He said today “It is not surprising to see that UK cities will no longer be able to bid for the European Capital of Culture status in 2023, taking place, as it will, after we have left the EU.”
“Cornwall has had a lucky escape here. Our Cornish MPs warned the Lib Dems and Independents who were running the last council that this could happen, but they chose to persevere with putting together a bid anyway, wasting public money on something that was incredibly unpopular with the Cornish taxpayer.”
“We campaigned on scrapping the Cornish bid during the local elections, and as the largest group of councillors on Cornwall Council, were pleased to immediately put pressure on the new administration and see the bid scrapped before any more money could be wasted.”
“As I have said before, Cornwall is already an international capital of culture and we do not need a badge from the EU to tell us that.”
Cllr German and other cabinet members were unavailable for comment today.
Funnily enough the Creative Industries of Cornwall were represented at New County Hall this week, ostensibly displaying a mural they had made for the Royal Cornwall Show, but really there to nudge councillors attending Full Council to appreciate an industry that may be sometimes ephemeral but along with Cultural Tourism brings in a solid piles of real cash into the Cornish Economy.
If this was an Industrial Estate, an Enterprise Zone, a Spaceport or some other bricks and mortar, they’d be all over it, the argument goes. It’s difficult to persuade pragmatic councillors to suspend their disbelief and get caught up in the story.
The amount and ferocity of adverse press generated against the Lib Dem / Indie coalition who run Cornwall Council over the ill-fated Euro Capital of Culture bid has now made it doubly difficult to get them to be seen to be wasting money on arts projects in general.
However the same arguments in favour of the European Capital of Culture bid, that you need to spend to accumulate, were this week being employed in favour of the new Capital Investment Programme for Cornwall. Bricks and mortar.
All is not lost though. Just before he was ousted as Leader of the Conservative group on Cornwall Council, John Keeling promised Conservative support for a bid for the alternative UK City of Culture (currently Hull) in 2021. Today, Cllr Mustoe confirmed that it was still Conservative group policy to support such a bid. So far, Coventry, Swansea, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland have shown an interest.
Ironically, and to the horror of those involved in the Capital of Culture bid, the Lancashire consultants thinkingplace who were now notoriously paid £75k to tell Cornwall to focus on Poldark and pasties boasted in their presentation to Cornwall’s Leadership group that their previous work in Coventry had given the city such a confident ‘sense of place’ that the were now ready to bid for the City of Culture! They were obviously unaware of the Capital of Culture fuss earlier this year.
The Culture Services budget faces a £100k cut in the draft budget published by the council last week and at this point it is unknown where that saving will come from.
Fiona Wotton, director of Cornwall 365 told us why it was important the Cultural sector was at Full Council this week
“The mural is the distillation of a huge review of evidence that we sifted through to validate the positive impact that culture brings to communities. These range from the benefit it brings to the economy to the impact on health and wellbeing.
The mural is also a resource which can be used by councillors and community leaders to help spark conversations with people about what culture is and why it is important”
Cornwall 365 main strands of work are running the Cornwall 365 What’s On and the Arts Council funded Cultural Destinations programme and organise events and skills development sessions for a network of cultural, creative and tourism businesses.
The aim for Cornwall 365 is to keep promoting Cornwall as a year-round destination for culture, the arts and events through the What’s On business and to find creative ways to continue to build and support the network of Cultural Ambassadors. The 365 project has funding up to September 2018 at the moment but will be hoping Councillors can see a way for it to build on it’s success and let it continue.
Dr Wotton continued “Knowing that funding for the arts is always vulnerable to cuts, our approach has always been rooted in creating a sustainable model. We could have blown the budget on one big advertising campaign but we have focussed on a human approach founded on people talking to one another. We are really beginning to see the benefits of this work with new partnerships springing up between tourism business and cultural organisations. But it takes time and we hope that public funders will be able to see the benefit of continuing this work and join us in shaping future strategies”