A UK parliamentary committee has slammed the post-Brexit Unboxed cultural festival, calling the government’s £120m investment in the initiative “an irresponsible use of public money”. A report published on March 16 by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee also warned that it is “far from clear that [Unboxed] will provide a return on investment”.
The UK-wide festival known as Unboxed: Creativity in the UKfirst announced by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018, launched in Scotland with About Us earlier this month, a spectacular free outdoor event using historic Paisley Abbey near Glasgow as the backdrop for a dramatic immersive historical screening.
When the project was first announced in 2018, it was dubbed the Brexit Festival and met with scepticism. At the end of 2020, applicants were invited to form creative teams and apply for a £3.6 million funded research and development program for the initiative. Thirty teams were then selected and awarded £100,000 each to pitch ideas. During the last phase, ten large-scale projects were commissioned, forming part of the final program of the festival.
Unboxed was previously known as Festival*UK 2022. The culture committee report later criticized the name of the festival stating: “Given that the name of the event and the full creative program have not been announced that in October 2021, about three years after the idea was formed, but only six months before the start, we wondered if people understood the vision of Unboxed, or even if they knew it was was producing.
The chair of the committee, MP Julian Knight, added in a press release: “The Unboxed festival is the perfect illustration of an event with unclear objectives from the start. That it took three years to come up with a rather nebulous name, which will mean little to the few who even know of its existence, doesn’t bode well for its chances of delivering a real lasting legacy. The report recommends that “government needs to be clear about what it is trying to achieve through major events and how they fit into broader policy priorities, then embed that vision through planning and resources. long-term “.
The arts journal understands, however, that the evidence to the select committee was heard before the final ten projects were announced. Above all, the festival is also supported by the four governments of the United Kingdom. “The fact that we have a Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish team is a product of the decentralized nature of the UK commissioning culture. When we pitched the idea, we got a universal yes from all four governments, which is magic,” says Martin Green, the festival’s creative director.
The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says it disagrees with the committee’s findings. “The UK has a long history of hosting incredible international events that deliver huge benefits to the nation, create jobs and increase investment in cities and towns across the country,” it adds. he. A government source adds that the £120m investment is also helping to create jobs and commissions for those working in industries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Green added in a statement: “Unboxed opened in Paisley on March 1 to an overwhelmingly positive public response, underpinning a commitment to bringing large-scale cultural programming to often underserved locations. Whether it’s unique experiences for the public or a UK-wide school programme, we’re confident Unboxed will demonstrate lasting value to people across the UK.
About us, who is now in Derry-Londonderry (March 15-21), is the first of ten “multi-site and digital creative projects” taking place across the country. The free program of events brings together leading figures in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts “on TV, radio and online”.
Future events include SEE MONSTER, a public art installation set on a disused North Sea oil rig which will be unveiled in the coastal town of Weston-super-Mare this summer (launching July 7). At the same time, the “living history” project StoryTrailsa “breathtaking dive into our collective histories”, will unfold across 15 towns and cities and culminate in a new film by historian David Olusoga premiering at the London Film Festival in October.