‘Festival of Brexit’ director brands it ‘very successful’ despite low attendance

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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 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.

Oil Rig art installation
A decommissioned North Sea offshore platform was transformed into one of the UK’s largest public art installations as part of Unboxed (Ben Birchall/PA) 

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.”

StoryTrails at Bradford
Unboxed involved digital and virtual reality events (Lucy Ray/PA) 

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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