WHAT price culture? In these times of austerity, should public funds be spent on something so frivolous as staging a light show, or doing up an ageing theatre?

It has been a big few weeks for the arts in the North-East. Coming on the back of Kynren’s successful second run over the summer, Bishop Auckland’s new Mining Art Gallery opened last month – a venue that truly shows how art can both reflect, and connect communities.

This week, Lumiere festival of light is in full swing for the fifth time in Durham City. In 2015, it was estimated to provide an economic boost of just under £10m.

Today, the £11.7m revamp of Darlington’s Hippodrome Theatre – formerly Darlington Civic Theatre – will be revealed. How much is the Hippodrome worth to Darlington in terms of cold, hard, cash? Presumably there is an equation to work this out, but is that what the arts should be about?

Hosting large events and having flagship venues can put a town, city or region in the national or international spotlight, raising its profile and attracting investment. Less tangible though, is the result of making an investment in people – in providing thought-provoking, inspiring, and enriching cultural opportunities on their doorsteps.

Can a price be put on that? Some will claim it’s a waste of money. Others will say it is worth it to bring beauty and colour to people’s lives. Those arguments will continue to rage. While they do, we hope the people of the North-East continue to show how much they value the arts, flocking to Lumiere in their thousands and taking advantage of the many brilliant venues in the region, including Darlington’s much-loved Hippodrome Theatre when it throws open its doors once more.