Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central 4:38 pm, 2nd March 2021

I welcome my hon. Friend Jo Stevens back to her place.

The importance of this sector cannot be underestimated. In 2019, the entertainment and cultural sectors contributed £10.5 billion and more than 200,000 jobs to the economy. These are often highly-skilled jobs, from musicians and actors to those in production and sound tech, including engineers, electricians and many skilled professionals. That is only the economic benefit; never mind the happiness and joy that this sector gives to so many of us. The sector has been very hard hit by the pandemic, with the trade body for live music reporting revenue of almost zero since its start. Although there have been livestream shows, they do not replace the feeling of everyone getting together for live events. I am a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and we have heard evidence about the precariousness of the economics of festivals and the inability of streaming to replace the income that artists would have received from events that have had to be cancelled.

There are some great examples of businesses in the sector adapting, not least Generator, an industry support agency in the north-east run by CEO Hannah Matterson. Generator has worked with more than 190 artists, providing over 1,000 hours of support online since the start of the pandemic, from meet-ups to online masterclasses on production and marketing, helping musicians to develop their careers. It has done a remarkable job, and I am sure that the shocking figures published by the Musicians’ Union, showing that 34% of musicians are considering abandoning their career and that another 37% are unsure of their future, would be much higher if it were not for organisations such as Generator.

This is an industry that Britain is famous for and that we export around the world, and the Government must be more proactive in supporting it. The support package was welcome, but many thousands are missing out and are still not supported properly by Government. On top of that, there is the immense issue that future tours will face, thanks to the Government’s failure to negotiate an adequate visa situation for artists to tour around Europe. A music or cultural export office is a great idea that will help big productions but not small artists who are starting out. The Government need to act. They have published a road map, but we have waited a week for the funding package. We hope to hear—and we must hear—in the Budget tomorrow what support the Government are going to give to this hugely important industry.