THE VITALITY, vibrancy and value of Yorkshire’s cultural offering continues to have a transformative effect on the wider social and economic wellbeing of this county.
From acclaimed TV dramas like Last Tango in Halifax and Gentleman Jack to superb stage shows in the region’s theatres, only London can match the breadth of this county’s arts appeal.
And, as exemplified by Hull’s landmark year as the UK City of Culture, the renaissance of Wakefield’s waterfront or plans to transform Huddersfield town centre to give three examples, arts is integral to the regeneration agenda.
Yet it is also important that these benefits do not come at the expense of countryside communities after it emerged that rural areas – home to 17.6 per cent of the population – receive as little as 2.5 per cent of public funding.
Coming at the end of a week when it emerged that North Yorkshire County Council is proposing to reduce the number of road safety officers from six to one because of budgetary pressures, it is indicative of the challenging decisions that local authorities are having to face and why it is so difficult to justify rural arts as a priority.
However it is also an opportunity that should not be spurned, as evidenced by The Courthouse in Thirsk which is enjoying a new lease of life as a thriving arts centre and gallery after the judiciary declared it surplus to requirements.
Local initiatives like this can make a lasting difference – a point that Welcome to Yorkshire could consider as it re-evaluates its raison d’être – while devolution offers an opportunity for arts and culture to receive some political leadership.
And at a time when culture is helping to broaden the horizons of young people, or providing a lifeline to people who suffer from social isolation, the argument that the arts should be for all is as compelling as ever. And that also includes rural areas.