A little over a year ago, the streets of Sheffield were lined with open doors leading to theatres, cinemas and museums, which form the cultural heart of our city. Because of covid, those doors are now firmly closed. While the road map out of lockdown has given those in the sector some hope as to when they can return, I am deeply concerned that a year of uncertainty and limited support may mean that some could collapse before then.
A highlight of our cultural calendar is the Tramlines Festival, which is held each year in my constituency. However, after having to cancel last year, it has now had to contend with large uncertainties when determining whether it can go ahead this year. Simple common-sense steps, such as extending the 5% rate of VAT for the culture sector, would go a long way towards protecting events such as these, as would ensuring that the workers were receiving the vital financial support that should be due to them.
Doc/Fest is another shining example of Sheffield’s proud entertainment sector. Each year, it attracts thousands of visitors, including big names such as David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley, Louis Theroux and Michael Moore. It delivers millions of pounds to the area, and this has a strong knock-on effect for small businesses. It is vital that we protect our culture industry so that events such as Doc/Fest are sustainable in the long term.
Sheffield City Council estimates that the snooker tournament normally benefits the local economy to the tune of £3 million each year. We will not reach step 3 of the road map in time for this, but event pilots are planned for step 2 of the road map. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the world snooker championships as a suitable pilot, to offer a much needed boost to the area.
Away from these big headline events, the day-to-day culture industry in Sheffield is the bedrock of our local economy. Our theatres, cinemas and museums are a great source of local pride for us all, as are the many dedicated music venues. Live music is also intertwined with many of our pubs and bars. There must therefore be greater guidance on when live music can return in those settings, to provide peace of mind for the industry.
Tomorrow, the Chancellor will unveil his Budget. This will be the last chance to prevent our culture sector from falling off a cliff edge when the existing support packages expire in the coming months. I urge him to deliver on his promise to do “whatever it takes” throughout the covid crisis. That would not only save thousands of jobs and businesses but protect the cultural sector that we all want to see thrive once more.