Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Steven Bonnar Steven Bonnar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (DEFRA Team Member) 4:17 pm, 2nd March 2021

It has been estimated that as much as 60% of some towns’ economic output comes directly from the night-time industry. The findings from a recent inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group for the night time economy highlight just how devastating an impact the pandemic has had in this sector. In some cases, businesses are trading at a mere 10% of their pre-covid turnovers and have been forced to make almost a third of their workforce redundant. Without urgent and tailored financial support, it is no exaggeration to say that this interwoven economic system faces the very real risk of irreparable damage and collapse.

Businesses in the sector not only help to drive the local economy, but act as meeting places and hubs of local social activity. They are a huge part of the fabric and culture of daily life on my constituency of Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. Many respondents to the APPG’s inquiry from the constituency viewed venues in the night-time industry locally as “safe locations” and

“places which promote good mental health and well-being”

Despite that, many have now been closed for an entire year, resulting in many employees and businesses facing real financial hardship, yet Government support for this sector continues to be drip fed disproportionately by comparison with that afforded to other industries.

The UK music sector has been hit especially hard by the effects of the pandemic. Ongoing restrictions and concerns over crowd numbers have removed live performance income completely. The Musicians Union reported that at the time of the first lockdown, cancellations of live performances had resulted in a £14 million loss for its members—a figure that has only grown the longer the pandemic has worn on. Further cancellations of live performances, coupled with increasing uncertainty about any potential return to performing, led to 34% of MU members telling a recent survey that they were considering quitting the UK music sector entirely. This includes many of my own very talented constituents who have contacted me with their concerns. A similar percentage told the same survey that they had not been eligible for any form of governmental relief or support package since lockdown began.

Pre-pandemic figures show that the music industry contributed over £5 billion to the economy and export revenue was almost £3 billion. Clearly this was not a failing industry, yet it has been left decimated because it has not been operating for the duration of the pandemic. I therefore call on the Government to provide clear guidance and timescales for a return to operations, given that this sector depends on long-term planning and scheduling. The imminent Budget is the perfect chance to do this.