DARLINGTON’S general election candidates were quizzed about their views on the future of arts and culture in the town last night.

Representatives of all political parties took part in the public event at Polam Hall School’s Liddiard building, kick-starting Darlington’s third Arts Festival.

Organised by Darlington for Culture, champion of the town’s arts scene, candidates from Labour, the Conservative, Greens, Liberal Democrats, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and UKIP parties were asked what they would do to promote the arts if elected on May 7.

All candidates were invited to present their views in a short opening speech before the 70-strong audience pitched questions.

Peter Cuthbertson, Conservative candidate, said the arts should be available to everyone, while admitting there are limits to the funding any government can make.

Mike Cherrington, of the Green Party, stressed the positive effect the arts can have on boosting local businesses, while Anne-Marie Curry, of the Liberal Democrats, praised the efforts of Darlington for Culture and bemoaned the loss of the arts centre.

Labour's Jenny Chapman repeated her party's two priorities towards the arts - improving access and using the arts to improve the lives of children and young people, while Alan Docherty, speaking for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, made a case for the importance of the arts in education.

David Hodgson, the UKIP candidate, said that funding for foreign aid could instead be used for the arts.

John Dean, chairman of Darlington for Culture, who organised the event, said: “The important thing is people talk about arts and culture and it’s kept on the political agenda.”

Questions raised by the audience included how to improve access to the arts for people on low incomes and how drama education in schools might be made compulsory.