Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) is to report on the value for money generated by the Government’s £120 million Unboxed festival, with its reported 240,000 attendance having fallen well short of the 66 million target.

The NAO has agreed to investigate after a DCMS Committee report warned that Unboxed had proven an “irresponsible use of public money”.

Auditor general Gareth Davies said the NAO expects to be able to publish a report on the costs and benefits, management and planning of the project by the end of the year.

The Government’s nationwide Unboxed festival commenced on 1 March with a sound and light show in the grounds of an 850-year-old Scottish abbey, the first of a series of events staged throughout the UK. The festival will run until the end of the year.

The project has been overseen by Martin Green CBE who was both chief creative officer of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 and Unboxed. Green told Access that the festival, which in the past had been referred to as the Festival of Brexit, involved 700 creatives working on 654 separate live event happenings, and that he hoped it would have a hugely positive impact on the UK’s live events industry for years to come.

Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP 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 NAO’s investigation will bring welcome and thorough scrutiny and help get to the bottom of how so much tax-payer money could be frittered away for so little return.”

A spokesperson for Unboxed said the reported attendance figure do not represent the full level of engagement with the project, and reflect attendance at only eight of the 107 physical locations within the programme: “Unboxed’s art, science and tech commissions have been presented in over 100 towns, cities and villages, engaged millions across live and digital and employed thousands of creatives around the UK.”