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In this issue you will read about Stockton’s 27th annual celebration of street theatre and Billingham’s 50th homage to the dance traditions of the world. Then there’s EAT! NewcastleGateshead, arguably the tastiest festival of them all.
It was interesting to attend the latest meeting of the North East Culture Partnership – co-chairs John Mowbray, ex-Northumbrian Water, and Middlesbrough councillor David Budd – which is trying to establish a vision for culture for the next 15 years.
You might say that that’s an overly ambitious aim. But you would be reminded that The Case for Capital, launched back in the 1990s, audaciously set out the case for £200m to be invested in the region’s cultural infrastructure... and got it!
This time around they’re talking about The Case for Culture. Nobody is realistically expecting to open the coffers in an imitation of The Case for Capital (the Government would tell you there’s nothing in those coffers anyway).
But what the North East Culture Partnership aims to do is keep the momentum going. We have the assets – fabulous buildings (so well used, in fact, that some of them are bursting at the seams... Seven Stories, Dance City) – and all these vibrant festivals. What we now have to do is maximise their potential, not only for the fun they give us but for the economic impetus they provide.
Mima, in Middlesbrough, has a great programme and will soon have an ambitious new director (welcome, Alistair Hudson), but it can take over an hour to reach by train from Newcastle. And Billingham, welcoming dance groups from across the world, has no hotel!
There is work to be done but there must be rewards to be reaped.