THE deputy leader of the Labour Party was 'bowled over' by Bury's culture scene as he explored the town's arts offering on the first night of the Enlighten Bury festival.

Tom Watson MP praised the work done to support the borough's creative talents through a time of severe budget cuts to local government.

The West Bromwich East MP, who is also shadow culture secretary, met with executives of the sound and light festival at Bury Art Museum, before visiting The Met to meet with the its chief executive and discuss investment in arts and culture in the borough.

Alongside Bury North MP James Frith, Mr Watson explored The Met — which underwent a £4.6 million refurbishment last year — to see what facilities it has to offer and was pleasantly surprised by what he found.

He said: “If I’m being honest, I really am bowled over and really impressed with the culture scene in Bury, it is really buzzing. The Enlighten Festival, which I didn’t know much about before I came, is something really incredibly special and I hope people get to enjoy it and participate in it because there’s not many places in the country that can do something like that.

“I’m looking at arts policy and provision of arts and I would say that it is top notch, premier league, culture provision. The partnership work now, even in the austerity of Bury, is second to none. They’ve done great things with very little resources.”

In the party's election manifesto, Labour pledged to create a billion pound creative capital fund to support the UK's arts and culture scene.

Mr Watson added: “A lot of councils have had to cut all budgets, and cultural provision has been hit the most because councils have been forced to try and protect their social services.

“What I think is unique about this area is actually, there has been a lot of innovation to public-private partnerships and what you’re seeing with spaces like The Met is they are incubating artists’ creative endeavours and bringing revenue streams and providing jobs.

“Some of the artists that are displayed in this festival, they’ve got international reach – that can only be good for putting Bury on the international map. Art is important, our recreational time is important and obviously culture is part of that.”

Mr Frith said: “There’s a lot of anxiety within young people at the moment. With Brexit and everything else, young people need clarity about what their role in the future is and I think their ability to get involved, plug themselves in and express themselves whether that’s writing lyrics or poetry or stories or expressing themselves in performing arts in some form as we have seen today is so important.”

During the two-day Enlighten festival, a reinvention of Bury Light Night, art installations are in place across the town centre.

Mr Watson said: “It’s so important to nurture creative talents because either people just don’t develop themselves or the talent of people leave and Bury is a great place to live! You’ve got a beautiful town centre, you’ve got good people, you’ve got good transport links and it’s this kind of provision which keeps people here.

“I mean the Enlighten Festival this weekend, it is one of the emerging, national events and I hope it can continue because I’ve just got a feeling that something really special is going to happen this weekend.”

A full calendar of Enlighten Festival events can be found at