It is a pleasure to follow Pete Wishart, who speaks so powerfully on behalf of the music sector. In debates, I often focus on topics such as the high-tech manufacturing UK steel industry, and the nascent nuclear fusion research effort, but this debate gives us the opportunity to focus on a sector that gives so much joy, delight, and so often inspiration. Industry, manufacturing or, more broadly, wealth creation are important and have their place, but they ought not to be the end in themselves. Culture, from poetry and music to the theatre, is immensely uplifting, and ought to be part of everyone’s lives.
Following the covid pandemic and a series of lockdowns, we need the arts to spring back to life after their hibernation. The culture recovery fund has made a significant difference, but many organisations will need to return to normal performances to ensure their survival. That fund has contributed to a wide range of organisations, from The Snug in Atherton, to Bolton’s Octagon theatre.
In the brief time available, I wish to highlight the breadth of talent to be found in and around my constituency. The Blackrod and Westhoughton arts groups regularly put on exhibitions. Horwich has its music festival, a fabulous series of chamber concerts are performed at the church of St James the Great at Daisy Hill, and Wingates has the world’s best brass band. We have the Ladybridge Singers and the superb Bolton symphony orchestra. I am looking forward to a return to normality so that I, and many others, can enjoy our rich culture.
I pay special tribute to the Bolton Music Service, which is working with, training, and nurturing the next generation of musicians. That is of immense value to many individuals, families and other organisations. As Matthew Arnold wrote, culture is
“the best that has been thought and said” and we ought to add that culture must also be performed. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to do all he can to support the arts and culture at every level, and in every part of the country.