A Tory MP has said ballet and opera are at the “heart” of people’s culture in the south of England, but that people in the north prefer football.
Jake Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, said on Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic was damaging northern culture and communities.
The former minister for the Northern Powerhouse currently leads the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, which argues for increased funding for the region.
Speaking in Parliament’s Westminster Hall, Berry said: “For many people who live in London and the south of England, things like the opera house and the ballet will be the heart of their culture.
“In the north of England for many of us it is our local football club.
“Our Glyndebourne or Royal Ballet or Royal Opera House or Royal Shakespeare Company will be Blackburn Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Carlisle or Sunderland.”
Berry said the government needed to intervene to “save local football clubs across the north of England, many of which are the cornerstone of our community and at the heart of our culture”.
Despite Berry’s speech, there is opera and ballet in the north of England and there are football clubs in the south of England.
The government has said it wants to see fans return to football stadiums “as soon as possible”, but has not been able to put a date on it.
Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, told MPs on Monday that while transmission rates were low inside grounds due to them being open air, there remained issues around fans arriving at and gathering around stadiums.
“I am fully aware of the importance of getting fans back in stadia, not just for football but for all elite sports,” he Huddleston.
Over the weekend the government also announced eight arts bodies and many more historic and heritage sites will receive money from the £1.57bn culture recovery fund managed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The recipients include The Lowry theatre and gallery hub in Salford, which will receive £3m to cover ongoing costs incurred during the pandemic, and Opera North, which will receive £2m.