Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed me to raise concerns about funding for the arts. I have replied to a lot of you but know I still have some to go, so thought I would share my response here.
I completely agree about the huge contribution that the arts make to our economy and society. I studied performing arts at university, so this is a subject close to my heart.
As I’m sure you will be aware, last month the Prime Minister announced that theatres and concert halls could reopen from July 4th, but would not be able to put on any live shows. This seems a bizarre compromise which will do little to prevent redundancies in the industry.
Jo Stevens MP, our Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (and her predecessor Tracy Brabin) has been calling on the Government for many weeks to urgently announce a package of support and earlier this week the Chancellor finally announced a £1.57 billion rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions. While this is a significant amount of funding and has the potential to make a big difference to the sector, our concern now is whether it will get to the places which really need it (such as smaller arts venues) before it is too late. We know that some venues have already closed or had to make their staff redundant. We also need to ensure that other community spaces and events – such as music festivals, libraries and youth theatres – are supported.
Jo Stevens asked an urgent question on the funding package in the Commons yesterday. I entered the ballot to speak, but sadly was not picked. You can read the questions and responses here if you are interested: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-07-07/debates/FD4667EC-2BEF-4596-850A-01B325B61647/ArtsCultureAndHeritageSupportPackage
With regards to financial support for the self-employed and freelancers, again this is something we as the Opposition have been pushing the Government on since the start of the crisis. Jamie Stone MP has set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group in conjunction with ExcludedUK, which I have joined along with around 200 colleagues.
I would like to reassure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to fight for support for the arts and for sufficient financial support for all.