Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) 3:55 pm, 8th October 2020

The arts and culture sector is at the beating heart of my city, and we are so proud of what is on offer in Bath. I am happy to add my support to the #WeAreViable campaign. Many of my constituents are writing to me, worried about the future of local institutions such as Komedia or The Bell. The Little Theatre Cinema, very similar to the one Florence Eshalomi mentioned, which opened its doors in 1935, will now once again temporarily close them.

However, there are also some uplifting success stories. Bath’s Theatre Royal has opened its doors with three plays and a Christmas show, the Assembly Rooms are hosting the Mozartfest in November, Moles is welcoming live music lovers again, and a fabulous Grayson Perry show can be enjoyed at the Holburne Museum. Please, all come to Bath.

Clearly, some venues find it more difficult than others to adapt, and even those that are open again cannot operate at full capacity. The culture recovery fund is welcome, but it is not yet reaching all those who need it. The Arts Council England decision has been delayed until next week, adding to the uncertainty and anxiety already felt by those who see the fund as a final lifeline.

Live music events have been hit particularly hard; we have already heard a lot about that today. According to the Production Services Association, not one of its members has received anything from the Arts Council England funding for freelancers, and 20% of its self-employed members have had no access to furlough or the self-employed income support scheme. I commend the Stagehand Crew Relief Fund, which has been set up for crew workers in the live music sector. Some £100,000 has already been given to start off the fundraising, but much more will be needed. Highly skilled freelancers urgently need our support, and we must always remember that we need those skilled workers behind the musicians and actors.

Much Government support will end just as it becomes viable to consider reopening again. An extension of the furlough scheme is needed, but there is also room for creativity. Edenred is calling for a tax-based hospitality voucher scheme that employers could make available to employees, who could spend them on tourism, hospitality and the leisure sector. Countries across Europe have already tried similar schemes, with positive effects.

We cannot afford to lose our vital culture sector. Arts and culture bring together communities, provide solace to those struggling with mental health and entertain us all. We need more of them, not less.