THE Leader of the South Devon Alliance of councillors has challenged the Government to support the arts in the same way it does grassroots sports.
Cllr Richard Daws was one of the delegates at the Houses of Parliament at the All Party Committee Group that is charged with looking after Heritage High Streets and Town Centres.
He said: ‘I was invited to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies on their session of Levelling Up Heritage High Streets.
‘Back in 2002, my business Komedia, a live entertainment venue in the centre of Brighton that had become a vibrant cultural and community hub, featured in a government report the then Labour Government released through a similar group called the Civic Trust.
‘That report outlined how town and city centres needed to evolve and the presence of arts centres and community hubs acted as the catalyst for regeneration and offered masses of benefit to residents.
‘That report inspired us to look to open a second venue in Bath in 2008, where we converted a derelict grade 2 listed cinema into a mixed use live entertainment venue.
‘A business that we successfully transitioned into community ownership in 2019.
‘So I attended the meeting to share these experiences, the challenges we have met and what impact the arts had on the cities we operated in.
‘The session outlined success stories from around the country, including Sunderland and Bromsgrove, where the Architectural Heritage Fund had backed projects.
‘The common factor in all the case studies was that MPs, local councils and the creative professionals had all worked together to create transformational change.’
Cllr Daws said at the end of the meeting that alongside being at the centre of regenerations in two cities, he had recently been involved in the successful campaign to halt the proposed changes to the interior of the Alexandra Theatre Newton Abbot.
‘I was able to thank the Architectural Heritage Fund for the development funding they have provided for the newly founded Community Benefit Society.
‘A group formed out of the Teignbridge creative sector that was set up to bring The Alex into use as a full time theatre use and to be at the centre of a cultural hub for the district.’
‘The MP for Bath Wera Hobhouse attended the meeting and spoke in support of the work my venue had done to benefit her city.’
After the meeting she shared on social media: ‘Pleasure to meet up with Richard Daws@KomediaBath for a discussion in Parliament on historic city centres and how to work together with local leaders, community organisations, and businesses to leverage our collective strengths. @civic_voice
‘I ended the meeting with a challenge to Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, an Arts and Heritage Minister, asking the government to fund the arts in as structured a manner as it does grassroots sport.
‘I left the session wondering what could be achieved in Newton Abbot and Teignbridge if we had a district council that valued culture and engaged with the residents and the creative sector.
‘There are examples of transformational change around the country that could be mirrored. It is within our grasp to create a legacy around The Alexandra that was of benefit to the district for generations to come.’