A £120m festival launched to celebrate Brexit has been branded a flop after just 238,000 visitors turned up.
The taxpayer-funded so-called ‘festival of Brexit’, later renamed ‘Unboxed’ was branded “beyond parody in terms of wokeness” by the former minister for leaving the EU.
In a report published by House, the publication for Parliament, organisers reportedly focussed on issues such as gender, and didn’t mention Brexit in any of the programming.
Former Brexit Minister David Jones said according to the Times it had been “hijacked by people who probably don’t approve of Brexit”.
He also branded the event’s funding, which cost four times as much as the Platinum Jubilee celebrations “shocking” amid the cost of living crisis.
The festival was criticised earlier in the year as being a “recipe for failure” with MPs asking if people “even know that it is happening.”
In a statement to City A.M., a spokesperson for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK said it had “established a new model for national festivals, without a reliance on metropolitan hubs.
They said events had brought visitors “to places that are often underserved by the cultural sector and the local response has been fantastic.
UNBOXED added that “some of the biggest projects are opening this month so it’s much too early to talk about engagement numbers. These will be released as part of the evaluation process when the programme is over.”
In response to criticism of the festival’s cost, Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: “After the chaos and uncertainty of the Covid lockdowns, and hit by rising fuel, food and energy bills, we could have done with an uplifting celebration of our country. Instead the Tories tried to use a moment of patriotic coming together to score political points, and the British people saw right through them.
“£120m is a huge amount of public funds for a festival that fell flat. DCMS should learn lessons to ensure we don’t have more publicly funded festivals viewed, in some cases, by only 1000 people.
“Rather than stoking division and trashing our great British institutions, Labour will deal with the cost of living crisis hitting working families.”