Conservative MP Jake Berry has seen a backlash in the UK after defending the importance of northern soccer clubs struggling to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic – a ballet company cited critics.
The MP for Rossendale and Darwen, one of the UK’s hardest hit areas of the crisis, took the opportunity in Parliament to promote the important position of football clubs in the communities.
Berry told a debate that dozens of lower division football clubs in the north were loved by the locals as much as the great opera houses and theaters of the people in the south.
“For many people who live in London and the south of England, things like the opera house and ballet will be at the heart of their culture,” said Berry, who has been involved in business-boosting efforts in Northern England through his previous role in Role the Northern Powerhouse initiative.
The response of many to this is fraught with class prejudice. @JakeBerry is not saying that local football is replacing high culture. He says that for many their high culture can be found there – and it is Shakespeare and operational, true high culture sees the transcendent in the ordinary https://t.co/wiCouKJXs1
– Phillip Blond (@Phillip_Blond) November 12, 2020
“But for many of us in the north, it’s our local football club … Blackburn Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Carlisle or Sunderland.”
Northern Ballet, which has roughly the same number of Twitter followers as Berry’s lowest-ranked League Two Barrow team, accused it of maintaining stereotypes that people in the north place “less value” on culture than those in London.
“Culture is equally important to a large percentage of people in the north,” they said, describing themselves as “disappointed” with the comments.
Liverpool Riverside Labor MP Kim Johnson hit back in Berry: “Tell that to five theaters, eight museums, three art galleries and more music venues than you can count here.
“They may have ignored the people who work for them, but they are the soul of Liverpool. But yes, two fantastic football clubs too.”
After Jake Berry’s comments on today’s #PMQs, we are disappointed that a MP and former government minister continues to perpetuate the tropics, that the culture in the north is of less value than that in London.
– Northern Ballet (@northernballet) November 11, 2020
Incredible level of ignorance from @JakeBerry and so harmful. Hope the culture buffs of the north express their disappointment with this ruthless stereotyping. Maybe spend more time in the north and learn more about its cultural riches (Lancashire constituency but live in Anglesey?)
– BTD (@Sparky_SW) November 11, 2020
Forgive me for being stereotypically Nordic, and even more so, for agreeing to a Tory, but I absolutely prefer Accrington Stanley to ballet and always will. The arts have an important place in our lives, but not on Saturday afternoons. https://t.co/HWNDujOGAe
– mike 😎☕️🎨 (@MikeProcter_Art) November 11, 2020
One viewer accused Berry of “an incredible level of ignorance” that was “so harmful”.
“You might spend more time in the north learning about the cultural riches,” they added, pointing out that he lives in Wales.
Although heavily persecuted, many of the 72 clubs outside of the Premier League are demanding further government support at a time when they face major financial challenges due to a lack of fans and the associated revenue.
Berry argued that football clubs received little support compared to the £ 1.5 billion ($ 1.97 billion) the arts sector received.
I totally agree. I grew up in the north, on a diet from @northernballet and concerts given by @the_halle and others. Ridiculous and offensive comments indeed.
– Susan Keeling (@ SusanKeeling4) November 11, 2020
I totally agree with Jake Berry. Select a northern football club on a map and draw a 50 mile circle around it. Now count all the football clubs in it. Do the same for a southern ballet or ballet court. There’s nothing wrong with @northernballet, just more people like Footy here
– Phil Johnstone (@Phil_Johnstone) November 11, 2020
“Our football clubs in the English football league, almost all of them the social pillars of the cities they are named for, are now facing financial collapse,” he warned.
“These are structures that took decades to build and will take decades to replace if they go bankrupt.
“While soccer fields in Sunderland, Blackburn, Barrow and Preston seem an awfully long way to go from Glyndebourne [Opera House] or the royal ballet, yet they are equally important parts of the heritage and cultural fabric of our nation. “
Phillip Blond, who influenced former Prime Minister David Cameron, defended Berry. “The response of many to this is fraught with class prejudice,” he noted.
I hate football and its toxic “culture”. I live close to theater, ballet, opera, classical music, art galleries … all of the EXCELLENT things so many of our NORTHERN cities have to offer. We shouldn’t support one sport over all other things.
– Sarah Spencer (@ SarahSp12468054) November 11, 2020
Be upset for what you want, but he’s right. Football, rugby and cricket to ballet, opera and the arts every day of the week. Those fairies in the south may prefer the latter, but the northerners certainly don’t
– ## Duggie ## (@Duggmeister) November 11, 2020
Well, football has to do something right because it doesn’t require stacks of taxpayers’ money to be taken from people who have no interest in subsidizing its costs to the well-heeled.
– Andy Evans. Navy Danes. (@ 45x13_585) November 11, 2020
“He’s not saying that local football is replacing high culture. He’s saying that for many there is high culture there – and it’s Shakespeare and opera.”
Despite their fears for the game’s future, many fans responded with humor rather than sensitive outrage, including one who took a photo of a group of Millwall fans – a club notorious for its die-hard supporters – and responded to an outdoor theater performance .
One northern artist and League One Accrington fan said: “Forgive me for being stereotypical about the North and even more for agreeing to one thing [Conservative]but I prefer Accrington Stanley to ballet and always will.
“The arts have an important place in our lives – but not on Saturday afternoons.”
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