Arts & Culture

UK Government’s Unboxed festival to be examined by National Audit Office

Featured image credit: Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

The UK Government’s Unboxed festival, an arts festival with free events taking place across the UK, is to be examined by the nation’s independent public spending watchdog. 

The review has been requested by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee.

In a letter published today (Tuesday) the Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies, has said that the National Audit Office (NAO) will publish a report on the costs and benefits, management and planning of the project by the end of the year.

The project was announced by then-Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 and cost £120m ($133m/€137m) to deliver. It was hoped that 66 million people would attend the ‘celebration of creativity’ but it was actually only seen by a lacklustre 240,000 people.

The event began in May and will run until next month.

The DCMS Committee criticised the delivery of the festival and a report in March on major cultural and sporting events found that the investment was “an irresponsible use of public money”.

The Committee will hear from the UK Government and the Unboxed management team after the NAO concludes its investigation.

Chair of the DCMS Committee and Member of Parliament (MP) Julian Knight said: “That such an exorbitant amount of public cash has been spent on a so-called celebration of creativity that has barely failed to register in the public consciousness raises serious red flags about how the project has been managed from conception through to delivery.

“The NAO’s investigation will bring welcome and thorough scrutiny and help get to the bottom of how so much tax-payer money could be frittered away for so little return.”