Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:52 pm, 8th October 2020

My constituency of Vauxhall lies a short distance from this House. Members need only look across Westminster Bridge to see its enormous positive impact. Our world-leading cultural organisations lend huge respect to our national identity and international reputation. We can see iconic landmarks such as the London Eye, the National Theatre, the British Film Institute and the South Bank Centre, the origins of which date back to the Festival of Britain, and which houses the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, home of the world famous London Philharmonic Orchestra. Every Member in this House will be able to understand why so many of my constituents—more than 800 of them—signed a petition urging the Government to do a lot more in terms of support for the arts.

These cultural icons are not just buildings; they attract so many tourists and visitors from outside and around the UK. They contribute millions of pounds to the Exchequer, not to mention the economic and social contribution they make to so many businesses such as cafés, restaurants and hotels, which provide employment for local residents in Vauxhall and make our city a pleasure to visit and to live in.

Let me reference some of the smaller independent community theatres, such as the Waterloo East Theatre and the Clapham Omnibus Theatre, which I took my two children to last year on Boxing Day, when most Members here were probably still resting, to see “The Little Prince”—when you have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, you do not get to sleep on Boxing Day. Now these theatres desperately need our help. The Chancellor’s winter economic plan does not do anything to help some of those in the creative and night-time industries who cannot work because of covid-19. These restrictions, whether it is in music, the comedy clubs or the theatres, are having a big impact.

The Government’s £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund was welcome, but that was announced in July, and to date less than 3% of that money has been allocated to live music venues and independent cinemas, all of which are hanging by a thread. Just yesterday, a small independent picture house in Clapham in my constituency announced it will be closing tomorrow. So many jobs are going to be lost. Like many other people, a few years that is where I went to see “Black Panther”. The local people will not have that local cinema now. The tourism sector has lost this summer, and now Christmas is coming and it will lose that period too.

Lastly, I want to put on record my criticism of the Government for not acting quickly enough to help our freelancers who have fallen through the gaps. These are highly skilled people, many of whom who have invested many years in specialist training, and they cannot just retrain. Without them, our cultural organisations would not survive. Can the Minister confirm when our theatres will finally see the money, and will he lobby the Chancellor to ensure that our amazing cultural sector gets the targeted support it needs?