Express & Star comment: Warm words will only last so long from Boris Johnson

It is hardly surprising that arts organisations across the region have welcomed funding aimed at helping them survive the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

For many of our treasured venues, the cash through the Culture Recovery Fund will give much needed breathing space at a time when their very existence is under threat.

The sector has been hit harder than most, with many places still closed and unable to open until next year – and that is providing we finally managed to get a grip of the virus at some point soon.

But while on the face of it £17 million for the West Midlands is not to be sneezed at, the figure is a drop in the ocean when compared to other parts of the country.

It works out a small fraction of the amount per head received by arts groups in London, and leaves this great region lagging behind every other area.

Critics have been quick to point out that this appears to go against Boris Johnson's famed "levelling up" agenda, a plan which is aimed at seeing the West Midlands prioritised to make up for years of underinvestment.

Of course there is more to "levelling up" than protecting what we already have.

It is also about new infrastructure and building on existing strengths, and pre-pandemic there were strong signs of a new focus on the West Midlands from central government.

And it should also be noted that only a small proportion of the Arts Council funding has been released up to this point.

In the coming weeks further funding will be handed out for groups that bid for less than £1m, while there will also be awards of more than £1m and a repayable finance scheme.

It will be very interesting to see whether the West Midlands gets its fair share when those announcements are made.

The Prime Minister has long been a friend to this region, and only ever has good things to say about it.

But warm words will only go so far and he will need to ensure that he sticks to his promises.

It is imperative that adequate funding is provided to protect our fantastic arts and cultural sector.

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