Public funded £120m ‘Brexit festival’ draws fraction of hoped for 66m visitors


he £120million Unboxed festival, an event touted as a celebration of Brexit, has been visited by 238,000 people – a fraction of the 66 million organisers hoped would come.

Hailed as a showcase of British creativity, the show is held from March to October across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and online – centred around ten setpieces.

The event is free for punters, but costs four times the amount set aside for the Queen’s platinum jubilee. Having been announced by Theresa May in 2018, the event was called ‘the festival of Brexit’ by Tory grandee Jacob Rees-Mogg and while organisers sought to distance the name, it colloquially stuck.

Martin Green, director of the project, told The House magazine: “We all must learn from this. Rule one of major events: don’t politicise them. And unfortunately a few chose to politicise it from the beginning.”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has indirectly taken some of the blame for ‘politicising’ the festival.

/ PA Archive

Unboxed has featured glowing cubes spread across the Scottish countryside, a decommissioned offshore oil rig in Weston-super-Mare converted into a viewing platform, and a Pokemon GO-style interactivity around 15 towns or cities.

A spokesman added: “There are absolutely no references to Brexit in our full commissioning agreements with the ten projects.”

Despite this, the spokesman told reporters that organisers were pleased with how the public was “engaging” with the events.

Ms May had wanted in 2018 to capture the spirit of the Festival of Britian, an event held in 1951 and attended by around 25 million.

“We want to showcase what makes our country great today,” she said at the time.

“We want to capture that spirit for a new generation, celebrate our nation’s diversity and talent, and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration.”

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