Thank you to those who have contacted me about the impact of COVID-19 on grassroots music venues.
Live music makes a vital contribution to our economy and national life, and I agree the UK’s music venues are a much-valued part of our community infrastructure and must be protected.
From the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear music venues would be among the last places to fully reopen because of the difficulty of operating in line with social distancing measures. And of course, venues are closed again in England, Scotland and Wales due to the national lockdowns now in place.
Sadly, I believe the current restrictions are necessary to protect public health and save our NHS. The sooner we get the virus under control and get Britain vaccinated, the sooner we can reopen the economy, including the live music sector.
However, while I welcome the extension of the furlough scheme to April 2021 for businesses that must close their doors as a result of coronavirus restrictions, unfortunately I do not think the support provided so far by the Chancellor has been sufficient to meet the scale of the challenge businesses are facing. We need a proper plan to protect jobs and businesses.
I know organisations like the Music Venue Trust have called for the Festival of Britain 2022 to be cancelled and for the funding to be reallocated to support music venues and other festivals. But the UK Government remains committed to delivering this event and says it will provide an opportunity to invest in DCMS sectors.
The UK Government also stresses that its £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund has supported several music venues to stay open and continue operating. This is certainly welcome, but sadly this investment may not be enough to save venues still at risk of permanent closure.
I can assure you I am committed to standing up for the music industry. For months, I have supported calls for the UK Government to get ahead of this crisis and to target support at the hardest-hit sectors.
I am now pressing for a package of economic support which reflects the severity of restrictions and sees businesses and workers, including the self-employed, through the coronavirus crisis.