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Folk Dance and Song

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport funds Arts Council England to promote and invest in music and dance. Funding levels for these sectors are at their highest ever, with music receiving more than £100 million a year and dance more than £34 million. Investment in folk music and dance has quadrupled since 2002.

I hear the answer that the Minister has given but he has not put any figures in it. He will be as aware as I am that Arts Council England is guilty of artistic cleansing of England’s traditional, indigenous, working-class folk dance and song. As English pride reaches a climax with the World cup approaching, does he agree that Arts Council England should invest more in English folk dance and song, and not invest in contemporary Latin American art, as in foisting a £5.5 million art gallery on Colchester, which people there do not want?

The hon. Gentleman is just plain wrong about the new visual arts centre that is coming to Colchester, of which the Latin American arts component, which is the university of Essex’s contribution to the art gallery, is but a small part. The visual arts can bring regenerative effects, and we all hope to see them in Colchester, as we have seen them in Salford, Newcastle and Gateshead. Yes, he is right: of course the Arts Council should invest in all art forms. That is why it has quadrupled the amount of money that it has given to folk dance, of which he is such a fan; but money has also gone to Colchester’s museum service, which has increased, and to the Mercury theatre in Colchester and to the Colchester arts centre. Across the board, the arts have experienced a funding increase in Colchester—something that he should be pleased about and proud of.

Does the Minister agree that today, which is world environment day, is a prime day to encourage people to holiday in the UK, to enjoy our folk music and dance and to acknowledge the important role played by local authorities in promoting tourism in the UK? Will he write to the British Resorts and Destinations Association, which has its conference this weekend, to congratulate it on the input of local authorities into tourism in the UK, as well as into promoting folk dance and music?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Yes, I will write, but I am also speaking to the Local Government Association on Wednesday, when I will be talking about those very issues, which have caused a revival, not just in our inner city areas but across the country, because local authorities are taking culture and the contribution that the arts can make very seriously.