It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. The Government’s £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund is so important to my constituency, which proudly boasts of its cultural heritage. I am grateful for the grants that Watts Gallery and Sime Gallery have received thus far. Watts Gallery has another bid in with the Department, and I remain hopeful of good news about that. All the support given to our magnificent Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and the funding that Guildford City football club and Alford football club received to make them covid-secure venues for players and spectators alike has been incredibly welcome, along with the generous job-saving measures introduced by the Treasury.
In the short time available, I wish to focus my contribution on the performing arts. Before words were ever written down, story telling and music were the ways that communities were able to pass on history, identity and culture—who were are, what we believe and universal truths about the human condition. Even though the theatres went dark and auditoriums fell silent, theatres—both professional and amateur—found ingenious ways to put productions online and gain audiences that extend beyond our towns and villages. I commend the Guildford Shakespeare Company for its innovation in order to survive, but we all know that Zoom can never compete with being in the room.
The performing arts have a way of transcending the mundane, and we have never needed that more than now in this difficult time of covid. That is true not just for adults, but for children, and especially for those who learn differently and who find inspiration, meaning and heroes who they seek to emulate when seeing live performance and sport. I will never forget the first live performance that I saw aged 15. It was Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto No.2 in C minor, and I was utterly transfixed. I also know the huge privilege of performing for an audience and working behind the scenes to make the magic happen together with others who are equally passionate. I would like measures to be introduced so that our performing arts can continue.
This pandemic will no doubt be the source of creative inspiration, and it will form part of our story telling for the future. However, we are in a world that is currently dominated by a media pantomime that does not fill our hearts with joy, and neither does it let us momentarily leave our cares behind for an hour or two. It does not bring our communities together in the way that our local sports teams or amateur dramatics do, and neither does it give volunteers involved in grassroots activities the satisfaction they receive from giving their time for the benefit of others. We must ensure that all those fantastic institutions endure.
In conclusion, to slightly reword Orsino’s opening lines in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”—I hope the great Bard will forgive me—“If sport, dance, pantomime, theatre and music be the food of love, they must play on.”