Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Labour, Liverpool, West Derby 5:08 pm, 2nd March 2021

Many of my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby are part of the cultural and entertainment sector, and they have been hit so hard by the events of the last year. Liverpool has one of the biggest and most vibrant arts and culture sectors in the UK, and it is estimated to contribute 10% to our city region’s economy. The recent renaissance of my great city has been built on the talent within our area and our cultural offering, along with the warmest of welcomes from a city renowned for its hospitality. During the pandemic, many in the arts have been keeping our communities going, helping those who are struggling and socially isolated, and dropping off food parcels.

When the pandemic hit, the Government should have been there to help workers in the cultural sector. Instead, their support has been inadequate and, in many cases, non-existent. The majority of these workers are self-employed and they have been hit hard because of gaps in Government support. Data from the Musicians’ Union suggests that 38% of musicians, as well as the road crews that underpin the industry, have fallen through the gaps. I have spoken to some of our incredible musicians in the city about the issues they have been facing over the last couple of months. One said, “Throughout the pandemic I have seen many people lose their jobs, homes and lives. I have always tried my hardest to keep my head up and stay positive at such a tough time. I have seen myself become dormant, with jobs as a musician disappearing, and not being able to see my friends and family has been upsetting and difficult.” Another said, “There are musicians suffering who make their living playing covers in the clubs and bars around the city. It has been extremely tough for them, as you can’t really transfer to playing online as part of somebody’s night out. That cannot be replicated.” Another said to me, “Many road crews like ours are limited companies and we have only been able to access loans. We have no financial support and most groups rely on live income which has completely disappeared since March 2020.”

Tomorrow, the Chancellor’s Budget must deliver real support for workers themselves, fill gaps in support and meet the asks of the trade unions. The cultural recovery fund announced in July was welcome, but workers were not placed at the heart of it and have continued to be left without any help ever since. The talent in this country in both the cultural and entertainment sectors can be a driving force behind the recovery of both my city and the entire nation. Let us give them all the support to flourish, not choke them into extinction.