A public spending body are set to investigate the £120million of taxpayers’ money spent on the ‘festival of Brexit’.
- READ MORE: When Brexit is set to cost the UK music industry hundreds of millions, the planned “festival of Brexit” strikes a sour note
The event, which was first touted under Theresa May’s government, was described as a showcase for “the UK’s unique strengths in creativity and innovation” after leaving the European Union – with comparisons being made to the 1951 Festival of Britain.
While critics have consistently questioned the estimated £120m cost of the festival, planning took a step forward in 2020 when organisers called for “daring, new and popular” ideas that will unite the nation. The much-maligned event then rebranded as Unboxed and revealed details of its 2022 event.
Since opening in March of this year despite numerous objections, the festival – dubbed ‘Unboxed: Creativity in the UK’ – has reportedly welcomed just 240,000 visitors, a fraction of the 66 million originally hoped for, and MPs in a cross-party parliamentary committee have asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to look into how the money was spent.
After the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee called for the investigation and called Unboxed an “irresponsible use of public money,” the new committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Julian Knight, said: “That such an exorbitant amount of public cash has been spent on a so-called celebration of creativity that has barely failed to register in the public consciousness raises serious red flags about how the project has been managed from conception through to delivery.”
The cross-party parliamentary committee have raised concerns that taxpayers’ money was “frittered away” on the project while bringing “so little” in return.
Back in early 2021, campaigners called on the government to ditch controversial efforts for the festival and use the money to fund COVID recovery efforts as the pandemic continued.
Last year, the Music Venue Trust also called on the government to cancel the event and use the money to instead secure the future of Britain’s grassroots culture amid the pandemic.
In an open letter and new petition, the Music Venue Trust called upon the government to immediately announce legal measures to temporarily close venues amid the coronavirus outbreak, cancel their planned Festival of Brexit in 2022, and reallocate that money to fund arts spaces through this difficult time.
“What we’ve asked is for them to cancel the Festival Of Britain 2022, for which there is already a £122million culture budget allocated,” MVT boss Mark Davyd told NME. “We want them to take that money and put it into a cultural infrastructure hardship relief fund. That money is sufficient to support venues during a temporary period of closure.”