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Investing in culture and the creative industries is key to levelling up in the North

Bradford 2025 UK City of Culture banners in Centenary Square, Bradford, West Yorkshire | Alamy

3 min read

West Yorkshire is well and truly cementing its place on the world stage

Investing in culture and the creative industries is key to growth and levelling up – not only for our region, but across the North.

West Yorkshire is well and truly cementing its place on the world stage, with a year-long celebration in every district over the coming years. Leeds 2023 and Kirklees Year of Music have already kicked off, with Wakefield and Calderdale taking the spotlight in 2024. They will culminate with the mighty Bradford’s City of Culture 2025 – a once in a lifetime opportunity to bolster our region’s reputation as a creative crucible, where talented young people can start at Leeds 2023, develop and flourish by Bradford 2025.

Adding £2bn to our local economy and employing 50,000 people, West Yorkshire has England’s fastest-growing creative sector outside of London, so it’s no wonder we’re welcoming key players like Channel 4 and record label, EMI North, to our region.

Culture is important not only for job creation, skills, economic growth and levelling up, but to bring health and happiness to the lives of the people of West Yorkshire and beyond. For every pound contributed directly to the economy in the region by culture and the creative industries, a further £1.40 is generated in the wider economy.

That’s why I have made culture a priority as Mayor, leading a Creative New Deal that will drive our economic recovery. Our ambitions for the region’s culture and creative industries are far more than the “nice to have” in our economy, it is a key growth sector that can be exported to the world.

West Yorkshire has England’s fastest-growing creative sector outside of London

I’m dedicated to harnessing opportunities for inward investment to ensure the talented young people in our region, whatever their background, have the same opportunities as the talented young people in the South. And our world leading conservatoires and colleagues are raising aspirations, nurturing a new generation of talent – not just singers, dancers and artists, but behind the scenes talent such as producers, designers and technicians.

My Mayor’s Screen Diversity Programme further removes the barriers for young people, boosting skills and creating the opportunity to secure well-paid employment without having to leave the region. Uptake among disabled and ethnic minority participants has been particularly strong, at 43 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Since my Culture for All paper, which made the case that the arts should not be for the privileged few, the government has been incredibly slow to act with limited support for freelancers and arts venues during the pandemic. Now creatives are faced with a cost of living crisis with no prospect of extra funding. Regions are being forced to beg and compete for funds that will only benefit a fraction of individual projects and it’s not good enough. Ministers must put local leaders in control with simple funding settlements to truly level up.

Complacency and a failure to support and invest in culture, which out-performs most others in terms of growth, is a short-sighted, wasted opportunity, ultimately putting the creative industries and all the transformational opportunities it brings at risk.

West Yorkshire’s cultural renaissance is just beginning and is already making huge waves. We’re giving it all we’ve got and we need government to come with us to achieve a long-lasting legacy we can all be proud of.

Tracy Brabin is Labour Mayor of West Yorkshire

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Read the most recent article written by Tracy Brabin - Westminster must cough up funds for mass transit in West Yorkshire