The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s ‘Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, looks set to happen in 2022, but the project is not without its controversy.
The event, nicknamed ‘the Brexit Festival’ on social media, is billed as a UK-wide festival of ‘creativity and innovation’ to showcase the creative and innovative strengths of the nation. It will be organised by Dean Creamer OBE, director, Commonwealth Games, and head of profession for project delivery, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Backed by £120m government investment, the Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is billed as ‘a moment of national celebration’ designed to attract new inward business and investment.
The festival’s programme will include events on arts, culture, design and technology, held across the country.
The festival’s statement reads: “Taking place in the year of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the festival will amplify key anniversary celebrations of some of our most beloved institutions. In 2022, The BBC will mark its 100th birthday, the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals will celebrate their 75th anniversary and Birmingham will welcome 54 Heads of State to the Commonwealth Games.”
However, MPs have weighed in with criticisms. Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, the party’s spokesperson on DCMS matters, said: “I’m astounded that the government is going ahead with what is basically a Brexit festival despite everything that is going on. It is a complete waste of money at a time when funding cuts to our schools, hospitals and local services continue despite government announcements to the contrary. The Conservatives are trying to distract us with bread and circuses, but it won’t work.”
The proposal for the festival originated in 2018, and was unveiled as the Conservatives gathered in Birmingham for their annual party conference. Then Prime Minister Theresa May said the festival will strengthen what she describes as “our precious union”.
Downing Street, whose statement referenced the 1851 Great Exhibition and the 1951 Festival of Britain, said the event would mark the anniversary of a number of events. However, the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland in 2021 was not specified on their list.