The following appeared in my column for the Barnsley Chronicle on March 29th:
Last week I was pleased to host Labour’s Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in Barnsley, and show him some of Barnsley’s best cultural and heritage centres.
I showed my colleague to Experience Barnsley, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Elsecar Heritage Centre, and I was so proud to show off what our community has to offer.
But it’s concerning to see the impact reduced funding is having on the UK’s cultural assets.
Local authorities have seen their resources stripped to the bone, and across the UK last year 39 per cent of museums funded by these authorities saw their funding decrease.
And that’s bound to have an impact on the experiences they provide – in fact, 85% of publicly funded museums reduced their opening hours over the same period.
In spite of this trend, the culture and heritage industry in Barnsley is thriving through strong civic and community leadership.
But with greater resources, it could be doing even better.
Independent figures I recently acquired show how far our town is lagging behind when it comes to central arts spending as we’re dwarfed by other areas.
Between 2016 and 2017, for instance, £5.69m was spent in Barnsley on culture – that equates to roughly £23 per person.
This barely compares to London, where nearly £360m was spent in the same year.
It’s not just in London either.
Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield all saw greater amounts of investment in arts and culture, both in total and per person, than Barnsley.
Sheffield alone saw the equivalent of £64 per person spent – well over two-and-a-half-times more than here in Barnsley.
But Barnsley has a rich cultural past and unique history that I’d back to out-do anybody’s.
We’ve got incredible heritage centres, museums, arts exhibits and cultural events – including the Tour de Yorkshire later this year.
And we’ve got fantastic local workers and volunteers who I paid tribute to in Parliament recently, willing to bring these experiences to life
We should all be incredibly proud of what Barnsley has to offer the world culturally.
It’s about time we had the resources to show it all off.