Film festivals are an important part of building an audience for film throughout the UK, and more than £1.6 million has already been spent on local film festivals in 2007-08. In addition, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), announced in November that the UK Film Council would make a further £4.5 million available for national film festivals and regional festivals with national significance.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, and I congratulate him on taking up his new post: we wish him well. I urge him to look at the website www.bacupfilmfestival.co.uk, to see for himself the success of the first Bacup film festival of last year. We want to build on that and expand the festival this year, in order to enhance the cultural life of the Rossendale valley. May I urge him to look at the funding for such small film festivals? I hope that he will be able to assist us.
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing film policy together in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and I knew my luck was in when I saw that she had the first question today, because I could not think of a friendlier face to give me a gentler introduction to my new post.
I saw first-hand my hon. Friend’s work in setting up the Film Council, and she should take great pride in the British film industry’s success since the time she was a DCMS Minister. She is now doing the same for Bacup. I wish her well in that role, and I will certainly want to visit—I have been told that my new job is good for getting the hottest tickets, and I cannot think of better tickets than a couple on the front row at the Bacup film festival this year.
I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. There are plans for a film festival in my constituency, and I hope that there will be enough funding to go round. May I emphasise that it is essential that funding in the creative industries, particularly film, goes to the regions, especially as ITV is currently pulling back from regional news and investment? Therefore, any extra money that goes into film and television in the regions is important.
I entirely agree. As I mentioned in my previous answer, we have made money available over three years to support film festivals in all parts of the country. The hon. Gentleman will know that last year’s summer of British film, where funding was made available to support the use of digital screens, was another great success. In a changing broadcasting world, where there is lots of global content, regional and local programming is increasingly important to people in the UK.