Brass bands popular in the north get far less funding than opera beloved by “middle-class luvvies” in the south, according to a local MP on a powerful culture committee.
Shipley MP Philip Davies, who sits on Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee, says he shares concerns that the north is being overlooked for arts funding.
He uncovered figures which show that opera is getting £347.4 million during the five years of the current Parliament, compared to just £1.8 million for brass bands.
Mr Davies said while some of the opera cash would be going to Leeds-based Opera North, much would be destined for the south-east.
Later this month, the committee will hold an inquiry into whether the Arts Council England is distributing its funding fairly.
Mr Davies said London would always get more funding than anywhere else, and anybody who tried to argue against this was “living in cloud-cuckoo land”.
But he said: “The question is, is the north getting a fair lick of the sauce bottle, as they say in Australia?
“I think there’s a good case, when you see some of the submissions that have been made, that perhaps it isn’t – maybe the Arts Council is too southern-based or maybe too London-based. That’s something that I’m sure the committee will be putting to the Arts Council.”
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe is also on the committee, which expects to hold its inquiry on March 25.
Bradford Council has submitted evidence to the inquiry showing the disparity even within the north, with cities like Leeds and Manchester getting far more Arts Council England cash than Bradford.
Mr Davies said while he couldn’t be parochial in his committee role, if Bradford had a strong case for demanding greater funding then he would put that argument forward, just as if it were any other district.
Michelle Dickson, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “We welcome the select committee as an opportunity to discuss investment in arts and culture, and the complexities of achieving a regional balance in this funding. The Arts Council has made its own submission to the inquiry, a copy of which is available on our website.
“There are valuable and varied accounts of the arts and culture landscape across the country and we hope that the Committee receives a range of submissions that show this diversity of experience and opinion.”