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West Midlands

Volume 113: debated on Monday 30 March 1987

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asked the Minister for the Arts what is his estimate of the number of young people attending arts events in the west midlands.

Separate records by age distribution are not kept. West Midlands Arts supports four arts centres, which it is estimated that 500,000 young people attended in 1986–87. Many young people attend the Royal Shakespeare theatre, the concerts of the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra, and the many other arts events presented in the west midlands.

I am grateful for that answer. Is the Minister aware of the enormous upsurge of interest among young people in urban areas in the arts and cultural activities? Regrettably, that interest is not being properly harnessed because local authorities do not have statutory responsibilities for the arts, funding has been somewhat curtailed and the Arts Council awards have not met the aspirations of the west midlands region. Can the Minister suggest any inititiatives that he or the Government could take to harness the interests of young people who want far more to do with arts and cultural activities?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is singularly important to encourage young people to attend arts events and the figures that I gave of at least 500,000 attendances during this financial year at the four great arts centres in the west midlands—which are supported by £417,000 of taxpayers' money donated by the West Midlands Regional Arts Association — show what is being done, in addition to our education system, to encourage our young people.