01:03PM, Friday 25 January 2019
Could Slough become the UK’s first official Town of Culture? MP for Slough Tan Dhesi certainly thinks so, after speaking at a debate in Parliament.
Mr Dhesi spoke at a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, proposing a Town of Culture award to run alongside the UK City of Culture award.
A group of Labour Party MPs from across the country, have written to Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to ask him to consider the proposal.
They point out that the City of Culture award has helped attract investment and boosted the economies of cities which have won the title.
The 22 MPs say that while towns are not exempt from applying for the title, only one town has made the shortlist previously, and small towns would struggle to compete with major cities in a resource intensive bidding process.
Addressing parliamentary colleagues, Mr Dhesi said that Slough had moved on from the days of John Betjeman’s famous poem on the town.
“We want no friendly bombs, there is grass for cows to graze, we do not just eat tinned food and it is certainly fit for humans now.
"We are keen to show that we have a lot more than just David Brent and The Office to offer.
“Slough is a fantastic, diverse cultural melting pot and now it has become a major business, creative and cultural powerhouse, with Pinewood Studios right on our doorstep.
“A lot of people from Slough are working there, contributing to our national culture and increasing out collective national pride in our country.
He praised the annual Slough Youth Awards which he says exemplifies ‘the magnificent creativity’ of the borough’s young people.
“I think our town would do very well if we were competing with other towns up and down the country.
“About 70 per cent of Arts Council national portfolio theatre grants awarded in 2015 to 2018 went to cities, with a pitiful 12 per cent awarded to towns.
“The current scenario is not good enough; our towns are being left behind.”
Visit https://www.labourtowns.co.uk/town_of_culture for more information.
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The statue, which was put up on a plinth in the High Street in November 2018 to commemorate 100 years since the First World War, was damaged beyond repair and has not been replaced.