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Libby Purves criticises BBC and national newspapers for regional neglect

Cultural Question Time at the Royal and Derngate Cultural Question Time at the Royal and Derngate
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Critic Libby Purves has criticised national newspapers and the BBC for neglecting the regions in their theatre coverage.

Purves attacked BBC Radio 4 in particular – which employs her as a presenter – for not doing more to cover the arts outside London.

“I spend a great deal of time harassing the controller of Radio 4 and saying that it’s all very well having [arts show] Front Row – it will maybe do a play or an exhibition of a play – but we need a weekly theatre programme that is an hour long and we need it regional,” she said.

Purves added: “There is a lot to talk about and a lot of people who would talk about it really well, but it doesn’t happen. They won’t do it and just do Front Row, where there is something at the V&A and something at the National Theatre. It drives me nuts.”

Purves, a former critic for The Times, added that the newspaper covered the north, but did not do the Midlands or East Anglia.

“I had to battle to get stuff from East Anglia into The Times. My greatest triumph was getting a Times review of a play in Beccles Community Hall,” she revealed, adding: “It was very difficult to persuade people.”

Purves was speaking at a Cultural Question Time at the Royal and Derngate, in which she was joined on the panel by Arts Council England chief executive Peter Bazalgette.

Speaking about whether the arts outside London lose out, Bazalgette said that the problem was not the “dominance of London” but that the UK’s secondary cities were not as “big as they ought to be”.

He compared the UK’s secondary cities with those in France and Germany, where he said they were “more powerful and had more autonomy”.

“They make more of their own decisions and that is the way we need to balance this. The government is beginning to do it, but only beginning. In the 1980s the autonomy [of cities] was semi-destroyed, but we are beginning to creep back,” he said.

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