‘Festival of Brexit’ director brands £120 million event ‘very successful’ despite low attendance
The “Festival of Brexit” has been branded “very successful” by its director despite participation figures for the £120 million project falling very short of its 66 million target.
Unboxed, a UK Government programme of live and digital events funded by taxpayers’ money, was attended by three million people across 107 towns and villages in the UK, according to its organisers.
Director Phil Batty said that overall 18 million people took part in events held this year from March to October, mainly in the form of digital participation such as watching online broadcasts and through virtual reality.
However, in August Politics Home reported that the festival – which was intended to evoke the spirit of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain – had received 238,000 visitors with one month to go.
Mr Batty defended the project for providing “cultural experiences” to people across the UK and said the 66 million target was never intended to comprise in-person visitors.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “These cultural experiences have showcased the very best of science, the very best of tech and the very best of the arts through live and through digital.
“66 million was never a visitor target for this programme,” he added.
“It was a creative ambition for the programme, it was an ambition because we wanted to be really inclusive for the whole of the UK, and I think we’ve delivered that.
“I believe it has been very successful because we’ve seen that whether that’s live events in towns and villages there’s been an economic boost, but also we’ve seen major free cultural projects provided to millions of people right across the UK, and that’s hugely important.”
Last month, a cross-party parliamentary committee asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to investigate how the project was managed to “help get to the bottom of how so much taxpayer money could be frittered away for so little return”.
The initiative was originally unveiled in 2018 by Theresa May as Festival UK* 2022 and was due to be a nationwide festival of creativity following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who later held the post of Brexit Secretary, dubbed it the Festival of Brexit, and it was rebranded as the Unboxed festival under Boris Johnson’s premiership.
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