Labour's London Manifestos for this week's elections show a striking commitment from our councillors to arts, culture and the creative industries. This is a big, and welcome, change from what you would expect to have seen in London Labour Council Manifestos 10 years ago.
An analysis of Labour's manifestos show that commitment is based on the view that councils must support the arts, culture and creative industries in their area because it is important • for young people • for jobs and regeneration and • for building a sense of local communities.
The manifestos include Labour promises • to award scholarships to enable young people from low income backgrounds to study foundation arts courses • ensuring all primary children get music tuition • to use council powers to make open spaces available for festivals and events for music and literature • to use their planning and regeneration role to create cultural hubs and work spaces for arts micro-businesses.
It is all the more important that Labour councillors are stepping forward now to protect the arts and culture because the government has undermined access to the arts by • cutting the Arts council • downplaying arts in the curriculum.
This Labour council commitment to arts and culture is all the more notable as it comes at a time when there is an unprecedented central government cuts in council funds. It clearly draws on the pioneering work of Labour Cities such as Gateshead, Newcastle and Manchester who have used arts and culture as a route to regeneration, and draws on great benefits which came from the last Labour government's support for the arts.
As Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, I set up, working with the Local Government Association Labour group, the Creative Councillors Network. This brings together the culture lead in all Labour groups to strengthen the case for council support for the arts and share best practice in how to support arts and culture at a time of constrained council budgets.
See below examples of support for the arts and culture from Labour London Council Manifestos:
Labour understands the importance of cultural learning to young people:
- Southwark Labour will award scholarships to local young people from low income backgrounds to study art foundation courses in Southwark
- Newham Labour will continue with the Every Newham Child a Musician programme giving every child in year 5 a free instrument and three years’ free tuition. Their programmes include encouraging children to play chess to aid their concentration and analytical skills and they recently launched a programme to ensure all Newham kids get a chance to experience London’s world class theatre
- Haringey Labour will invest to ensure that children who have benefitted from music lessons in years 4 and 5 can continue them into year 6, free of charge
- Islington Labour will expand schemes to raise young people’s aspirations and confidence – they will roll out a highly successful programme of classical music tuition from Highbury Grove (as a result in the top 100 state schools in England) to more of Islington’s schools so that children from all backgrounds get the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument
- Camden Labour is working to open up access to local cultural venues to Camden children and will create new apprenticeships in the local music industry for young people
- Hackney Labour will continue the Mayor’s Music Awards for primary and secondary schools. Hackney Labour will support the work of Loughborough University and Hackney Community College to establish a new shared campus to provide a pathway for local people into the new creative and technology jobs being established in the iCITY/Here East development
- Kensington and Chelsea Labour will re-focus spend on arts programmes for grassroots events and young people’s and children’s projects
- Enfield Labour will celebrate young people’s innovation and creativity with science, arts and music awards
- Tower Hamlets Labour will forge partnerships with the aim that each young person will have the opportunity of at least one visit a year to a museum or gallery and look at how to support music and cultural experience for school children.
- Camden Labour will continue to fund their nationally renowned music service and work to open up access for all Camden children to their diverse range of cultural venues, large and small. They are developing apprenticeships with the local music industry for the borough’s young people.
- Hillingdon Labour will ensure the Hillingdon Music Service goes from strength to strength and work with schools, colleges and universities which have cultural facilities that could be of benefit to the wider public to enable better community use. They will put young people in the driving seat to co-produce services and look at expansion towards the arts and cultural activities
- Kingston Labour will roll out music programmes to more of Kingston’s schools so that children from all backgrounds get the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument, and attract new funding for youth services to protect opportunities for young people through drama and music from cuts.
- Westminster Labour will introduce more after school and holiday activities for children and encourage excellence in all cultural activities enjoyed by young people. They will support the Westminster Choral project in primary schools and establish a Westminster Youth Orchestra to develop musical excellence, the enjoyment of making music together and to give young people the opportunity to show their talents locally.
Labour understands the importance of arts and the creative industries to local regeneration
- Tower Hamlets Labour appreciate that successful creative industries rely on a rich cultural and artistic environment and will lead on encouraging the growth of cultural enterprise galleries and promoting events to celebrate the borough. They will maximise the potential for the regeneration of Fish Island, while protecting its unique character as an employment and cultural location. They will nurture new entrepreneurs and creative industries through Start Up Centres providing affordable work space, mentoring and advice.
- Hackney Labour will ensure that the regeneration of Hackney Central, through the Hackney Fashion Hub, will create new workspaces, local jobs and improve the public space and work to deliver the regeneration of Hackney Wick, supporting the local creative business community
- Camden Labour will use Camden’s ‘spare spaces’ to support artists and creative economy start-ups and will encourage and support the further development of the ‘knowledge quarter’ around Euston and King’s Cross, working with organisations such as the British Library and University of the Arts. Their review of local planning policies will specifically look at giving support and protection to small cultural organisations.
- Hillingdon Labour will seek to create a new Cultural Quarter to support their vibrant arts and cultural community
- Haringey Labour will build on attracting a global architectural practice to the area which will help generate employment and regeneration and education for young people.
- Islington Labour supports the development of new creative industries like ‘Tech City’ in Old Street and work to ensure that Islington’s residents directly benefit from the jobs and investment linked to the cluster
- Lewisham Labour will attempt to create an environment in which the arts and digital media sectors can thrive, through their support of small and micro businesses
Labour knows the value that festivals, community venues and creative events bring to enliven local places for residents and visitors
- Croydon Labour will establish a framework for more community-run arts and cultural events and bring back a summer festival to Croydon. They support Fairfield Halls – a venue that has hosted groups from the Beatles to JLS – and are dedicated to providing a wider variety of local artistic venues. They will work with community groups to make it easier for community-run events to take place in the borough and re-establish a vibrant fringe theatre for Croydon
- Barnet Labour will do all it can to support and promote local arts and cultural events, including community festivals and support community organisations including local museums and theatre
- Southwark Labour will enhance and expand affordable studio and performance space
- Greenwich Labour will refurbish the Borough Halls as a new centre for the performing arts, improve the standard and quality of performing arts venues, and establish a Heritage Trust to ensure the protection and investment in heritage buildings in the Royal Borough
- Tower Hamlets Labour will support programmes of events that celebrate local heritage and diversity and bring people together, and will reintroduce the annual fireworks display in Victoria Park. They will keep the borough’s Henry Moore sculpture “Old Flo” in the Council’s ownership and return it to Tower Hamlets, and seek lottery and other funding to expand their historic building restoration programme
- Lambeth Labour will open Britain’s first black heritage centre in Windrush Square in 2014 – this was opposed by LibDem and Tory councillors
- Sutton Labour will support local community and amateur theatre, support the use of parks for open air concerts and seek to protect existing free access to museums and historic buildings in the face of government cuts
- Hounslow Labour will deliver a Hounslow Town war memorial for the 100th anniversary of WW1
- Redbridge Labour will expand cultural services
- Hillingdon Labour will seek to create borough museums in partnership with national bodies or through sponsorship
- Haringey Labour will seek Lottery funding to refurbish the Victoria Theatre and BBC studios at Alexandra Palace
- Waltham Forest will transform community facilities including museums and libraries – they have developed major cultural projects like the William Morris Gallery and hosted free events
- Kingston Labour will work with local residents in support of a wider variety of venues and greater participation in the arts. They will make it easier for arts and cultural events to take place and support campaigns and festivals to promote reading and books.
- Islington Labour will support campaigns and festivals like Islington Reads and the Islington Word Festival to promote reading and books
- Harrow Labour will create a cultural strategy for Harrow, filling this important gap left by the current Tory-led council