Manchester City Council

Unblocking the drain

Almost without precedent, a day almost without any formal meetings

although I do have the joy of Blackley and Broughton Constituency Labour Party's AGM at 8 this evening. Perhaps a chance to ruminate on B of the Bang - not in any great detail as those of you want that can find it in the committee report available elsewhere on this website - but a chance to talk about the principles of public investment in art and culture in general and public art in particular. I liked B of the Bang. I liked its location. Many other people liked it and some people didn't. Those are all matters of individual taste and everybody is entitled to their own view. One of the many good things about the B of the Bang was that everybody who saw it did have a view, it generated discussion and debate, it made that corner of East Manchester distinctive, special even.

Some politicians have suggested that we shouldn't be investing in art at all. No doubt they would want us to close down all our galleries and museums, cut off all the grants to arts and cultural organisations, and stop teaching art and music in our schools at the same ime. The money for B of the Bang they say , and it wasn't the Council's money by the way, should have been invested in other things like improved housing or other local amenities. I want to make three comments on that. Firstly, of course people should have good homes, good schools, safe and healthy neighbourhoods etc,etc but the quality of life we aspire to in Manchester is far more than that and arts and culture are part of what makes a healthy and civilised society. Secondly, the creative industries have been a major growth area over the last few years and Manchester has had above average growth - that means jobs! Working with world-renouned artists like Thomas Heatherwick, bold statements like B of the Bang help deliver the message that Manchester is a place for artists, for creative people to live and work. Finally this isn't either/or. We are building wonderful new schools all over Manchester, we are investing many millions in housing, in libraries, in the environment but if we only invested in the basics what a sad and miserable place the city would be.

Unblocking the drain? Outside my kitchen window and that was the first job of the day

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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