A NEW report has called on the Government to invest in greater economic and cultural infrastructure if it is serious about its plans to level up the North.

The Case for Culture report - compiled by Northern MPs, regional mayors, local authority and cultural leaders - highlights the huge economic contribution Northern culture makes to the UK and the need to unlock its full potential.

It suggests the Government must recognise Northern culture and open up opportunities and access to training and education in its flagship levelling up agenda.

The Northern Culture All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) gathered evidence on what the region needs to rebuild, rebalance and recover and achieve pan-Northern and cross-party consensus.

It says the North “possesses such a rich seam of talent and a strong and proud cultural heritage” but warned of the impact the pandemic and “a legacy of de-industrialisation” has had on the region’s cultural sector.

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“Alongside the significant social, health and wellbeing benefits it provides, inquiry evidence demonstrates that Northern culture has a critical role to play in achieving economic growth and upskilling ambitions for the UK as whole,” the report said.

“In the context of ever-growing regional and economic disparities, and the pervasive need to level up, it seems likely that the impact of the pandemic on the cultural sector will be felt far more acutely in the North.”

Some North East towns and cities have been boosted by Government funding through its Towns and Levelling Up funds - created to revitalise ailing town centres and key local facilities and services - while the relocation of key Government departments like the new Treasury northern campus in Darlington has been dubbed a ‘blueprint’ for its flagship policy.

The Northern Echo: Chancellor Rishi Sunak working in DarlingtonChancellor Rishi Sunak working in Darlington

The report also looks at the post-Covid world and says cultural institutions, which benefited from Covid recovery funding, could thrive through further investment.

It added: “The levelling up agenda can encourage national institutions and organisations old and new to relocate or establish new hub sites in the North; High Street and heritage sites can be repurposed.

“Social and civic cohesion can be enabled through culture to mitigate the impacts of the Covid mental health crisis; Educational catch up can be facilitated through a new focus on creative curriculum, apprenticeships and life-long learning via new opportunities codesigned and co-delivered in partnership with industry and academia.”

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The report received cross-party support, was co-chaired by Sunderland Central Labour MP Julie Elliot, was prepared by Professor Katy Shaw, director of cultural partnerships at Northumbria University, and also involved Sedgefield Conservative MP Paul Howell.

“There is a clear and strategic case for investment in culture in the North,” the report added.

“The soft power of culture can meaningfully contribute not only to our economic recovery, but to the wellbeing agenda and our national identity in the years ahead.

“We believe it is time to invest and kick start the North’s cultural future. It is time to level up and time to place culture at the heart of North’s recovery.”

The Northern Echo: Bishop Auckland, Newgate street, as more shops closeBishop Auckland, Newgate street, as more shops close

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The Case for Culture report has been prepared by Professor Katy Shaw, Director of Cultural Partnerships at Northumbria University, as the report’s academic partner.

“The North has always been a Powerhouse for Culture,” said Professor Shaw. “But in recent decades the cultural sector and the North of England have been doubly disadvantaged by legacies of deindustrialisation, and most recently by a global pandemic that has hit the North and the arts most profoundly. To go forward today, we must get up off our knees together.

“This inquiry will recognise the capacity of culture to build innovative foundations for a new vision of the North in the 21st Century. The inquiry offers a vital opportunity to think about how we work together to build the sustainable creative skill sets in education, the infrastructure in capital build and digital connectivity and the culture of participation and inclusion across the many and varied geographies of our regions that we need to super charge the North as a cultural powerhouse fit for the future.”

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