Never underestimate the power of art - Ian Murray

Gorgie City Farm closed its doors in January 2023Gorgie City Farm closed its doors in January 2023
Gorgie City Farm closed its doors in January 2023
It’s no secret that the culture and arts sector is the jewel in Edinburgh’s crown. We like to shout about it, and year-round those of us who are lucky enough to live here can enjoy some of the world’s best theatre, music, art and sport.

Despite this, we cannot take Edinburgh’s status as one of the world’s cultural capitals for granted – and the depressing news that the iconic Summerhall arts centre has been put on the open market signals just that.

Without the cultural infrastructure to support our creative businesses and artists to succeed, we risk the managed decline of Edinburgh’s cultural scene. It’s a warning being replayed year on year from the Edinburgh festivals organisers. Look after it or lose it. Of course, I’m biased as someone with a background in the sector, but if our city is to remain the beating heart of Scotland’s creative industry, we must do all that we can to preserve the institutions that contribute so much to it.

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Unfortunately, this is not a new story. Two of Edinburgh’s cultural mainstays, the Edinburgh Filmhouse and Gorgie City Farm, closed their doors in 2022/23 and it wasn’t until the formidable Capital Theatres (30 years young this year) campaigned heavily to save the King’s Theatre that the Scottish Government listened.

When we’re having this conversation, we cannot forget the role that sport and football in particular plays. Our professional clubs and the grassroots provide so much to the communities they serve. Edinburgh South FC, in my own constituency, run 75 football teams representing over 1000 participants of all ages with 200 coaches; they’re a community pillar punching well above their weight. And this week, it’s been a decade since my beloved Hearts FC came out of administration – who would have thought that the club that was so close to becoming a historical footnote is now thriving in the way that it is?

Thanks to its supporters, Hearts is the high-flying football institution and community club that it was always intended to be. I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter which team you support, the fans’ passion and commitment will always make it. We have a responsibility to future generations to be good custodians of the rich tapestry of cultural and sporting institutions that make Edinburgh the place that it is.

The lesson here is that we should never take our cultural and sporting infrastructure for granted – we must always protect, value, champion and grow this sector or lose it at our peril. Edinburgh has always shown its resilience and resolve as a city driven by a core value that the arts, culture and sport should be for everyone. Labour in power will never lose sight of this belief and we will never underestimate the power of art and creativity to transform lives. We must build on the success stories such as Edinburgh and fire up the engines of our creative economy. It’s what we have always done.

Ian Murray MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland