Column: No need for council meddling in culture

Cast theatre in Doncaster.
Cast theatre in Doncaster.
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Over the years the people of Doncaster have watched with frustration and bewilderment as the council, ever eager to justify its existence, sticks its oar into more and more places where it doesn’t belong.

The latest and perhaps one of the most offensive moves is the publication of the Partnership Culture Strategy.

This patronising initiative to ‘revitalise’ the culture of the town begs the question: Just which Doncaster do politicians and bureaucrats think they are living in?

How people spend their spare time is none of the council’s business.

The Doncaster everyone else would recognise is teeming with classical music, folk and jazz (with many accomplished youth orchestras and bands) drama, film, comedy, art,architecture and, above all, the town’s rich and impressive history and traditions.

Doncaster’s ambitions in the arts have always been big and bold and it is a pity that the last time the council sought to meddle in these affairs it didn’t build a theatre large enough to accommodate them. It’s noticeable that most of the supporters of this so-called Partnership Culture Strategy (another new costly talking shop) are the usual suspects - Cast and the Leisure Trust - which are already recipients of council largesse but whose annual losses are never published.

There are many things that can and should be done to support the arts in Doncaster, celebrating Mexborough’s link with former poet laureate Ted Hughes is a case in point. But if the aim is to make cultural activities ever more popular, it has to start in the home and in schools through inspirational teachers. Instead we get another crackpot nanny state initiative which sees the mayor and her deputy running off to ‘rescue’ culture with all the finesse and subtlety of a 1960s Batman and Robin.

The Labour council has done its best to destroy culture in this town for generations.

Think of the buildings demolished by past councils; the old infirmary, the Guildhall, the Odeon, to name but three, and the isolation of the Grand Theatre in order to build the unattractive Frenchgate Centre. Then think of the huge number of neglected buildings of cultural interest seemingly left to crumble; St James’s swimming baths, the Grand Theatre, Denison House and the Girls’ High School facade.

The only lasting contribution that councils and local politicians have historically had on the culture of Doncaster is to demean it. You don’t put the wrecking ball in charge of preservation. The council should stay out of our cultural lives and stick to emptying the bins, hopefully with this condescending policy right on top on the rubbish pile.