Matt Hancock: How arts and culture can change the world

Edinburgh International Festival shows what a cultural powerhouse the UK really is. Picture: Scott Louden

Edinburgh International Festival shows what a cultural powerhouse the UK really is. Picture: Scott Louden

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Something big is happening in Edinburgh, writes Matt Hancock

Today Edinburgh will see culture ministers, artists and art leaders from across the world come together at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit to discuss issues affecting arts and culture.

The UK is an open, outward-looking nation that looks to the whole world for inspiration. This summit highlights that we have an important role to play as a cultural leader and a globally minded country.

Arts and culture are not confined to individual nations –they transcend international borders. Latest figures show that the arts contribute £27 billion to our economy every year and our creative industries are one of our fastest-growing exports.

We also have a lot to give back. We have a responsibility to protect and preserve not only our culture – but cultural heritage around the world. That’s why one of the 2016 Summit’s themes – “Culture and Heritage” – is so important. We have seen devastating cultural destruction over the past few years. Important historical monuments and sites are being destroyed, inflicting even greater suffering on countries enduring terrible humanitarian crises.

The UK is uniquely qualified, given the extensive knowledge and expertise of our own cultural institutions, to help prevent and repair cultural destruction. That is why we are in the process of ratifying the Hague Convention and its two protocols. We have also launched, alongside the British Council, the £30 million Cultural Protection Fund to support cultural institutions in countries whose heritage has come under threat.

This month has seen people travel from far and wide for the Edinburgh International Festival to enjoy some of the world’s best artists, comedians and writers. It’s further testament to the vital role that the UK has – and will continue to have – as a cultural powerhouse on the world stage.

• Matt Hancock is the UK government minister of state for digital and culture

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