I was, obviously, unbiased during the event, with a team of people behind the scenes armed to the teeth with stopwatches and spreadsheets to ensure parity between the candidates and the amount of time I was giving to each.
One of the candidates I quizzed at the hustings emerged victorious from the vote on Sunday. That Tracy Brabin was crowned the first West Yorkshire Metro Mayor has been loudly welcomed by the region’s cultural leaders.
While I was impartiality itself during the hustings, I will admit now that as a writer on culture for The Yorkshire Post, I echo the applause.
We are, you might think, living through a time when culture is being given its fair due. There surely have been too-many-millions-to-count words spent over the last 12 months extolling the virtues of our cultural output and how utterly vital it has been in sustaining our hearts and souls through lockdown.
Pages and pages of newspaper articles have been given over to the ‘best books to see you through lockdown’ and the ‘best movies to watch during lockdown’ and ‘best albums to listen to ease you through the pandemic’.
You’ll have had conversations with friends and families about the television shows that have brightened the dark days we have faced over the past 14 months. Culture, the arts, we have realised, make our lives worth living.
It seems, then, counter-intuitive at best to have learned recently that the Government is considering plans to cut funding for art and design courses by 50 per cent across higher education institutions in England.
Under proposals put forward earlier this year by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, funding would be cut for students of art and design dance, drama and performing arts in the coming year.
When it comes to the arts, the improvement to our lives and souls have been proven. The financial argument for the arts has been demonstrated. These benefits are empirical; there is no logical reason to cut arts funding.
The conclusion, then, is that this can only be an ideological attack: which means we need someone to go into battle for our cultural lives.
Step forward West Yorkshire’s newly elected Metro Mayor. A former actor who understands the value of the arts, I imagine Tracy Brabin is well armed for the battle – and it’s one we all need her to win.