Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet 4:58 pm, 2nd March 2021

The cultural and entertainment sectors are crucial for not only our economy but our wellbeing and happiness. As so many have said in this debate, live music, events, festivals and county shows are occasions that mean a huge amount to millions of people. They are landmark occasions in the lives of so many of our constituents. The big headline events have huge soft power reach around the world and the smaller local ones can make a hugely positively local impact, bringing communities together and supporting our town centres. I mention in particular the East Barnet festival, the Barnet medieval festival and the Cherry Lodge Summer Soulstice festival in my constituency, which were all cancelled last year and were all greatly missed. Despite the Government’s huge £1.57 billion culture recovery fund—the biggest ever investment in culture in our nation’s history—we lost so many festivals and big events in 2020 and we are now in danger of losing them for another whole year. I therefore repeat the call made recently by UK Music to “Save Our Summer” and set out three steps to achieve that.

First, targeted support through furlough and business rate relief should continue for events and cultural venues until the sector is allowed to open up properly again. More needs to be done to help freelancers, who have so far missed out on any covid financial support. Secondly, we need greater certainty on the timetable for reopening, and especially for the plan to resume big events on 21 June. It is welcome that we now have a road map and indicative dates, but getting an event on this summer requires planning and spending now. The pilots to establish whether it will be safe to start big events on time need to go ahead by the beginning of April at the latest—jobs and business survival depend on that. If the Government believe that proof of vaccination or testing should play a part in the return of large festivals and events, they need to set out how that will operate. That should focus on risk-based solutions dependent on the type of venue, the audience numbers and the type of event. Any requirement for testing or vaccination must be proportionate, operationally feasible, affordable and consistent with privacy.

Thirdly, and lastly, we need a Government-backed scheme for pandemic insurance. Those are three steps to prevent another summer of cancellations; three steps to save our summer. I urge Ministers to put them into action.