Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip 5:20 pm, 2nd March 2021

This pandemic has been hugely difficult for the arts throughout the UK. In Wales, musicians, performers and others, such as freelance writers and technicians, often working in small companies and in very precarious circumstances, have been hit really hard. There is a particular issue in Wales in that so many aspects of the arts operate in two languages, exemplifying, I think, the force of the argument that the arts are not additional, just to be preserved as nice to have, but a vibrant part of our lives with a huge contribution to make to our wellbeing and to framing our ways of seeing the world. For example, the arts and entertainment sectors are central strands in the efforts to reach a total of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050 and that is set out explicitly in the policy document on this matter.

Equally, the arts are integral to our sense of ourselves and our wellbeing in Wales, from huge participative productions such as Michael Sheen’s extraordinary “Port Talbot Passion” with National Theatre Wales and WildWorks, to bringing solo harp music into a residential establishment for dementia sufferers here in Caernarfon. We have other large-scale events such as the Hay Festival and our National Eisteddfod, the largest peripatetic arts festival in Europe. That has been postponed again this year, but has risen magnificently to the challenge of going online, with spectacular results.

I should note also my interest as a member of Gorsedd Beirdd Cymru, the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, but this is not just about our domestic events. The International Eisteddfod at Llangollen, established at the end of the second world war as a means of international reconciliation, is also adapting its format beyond the live event. I hope that the international Harp festival to be held here in Caernarfon next year will not be impacted. Without trying to cover absolutely everything, our television and film industry, our popular music and the visual arts must also be supported through this hardest of hard times.

In conclusion, many contributors to this debate have highlighted the economic value of the arts, particularly in terms of exports and of promoting world renown. I want to say that the arts are a good in and of themselves, for life is a matter not just of the stomach, but of the heart, the mind and the human spirit. That is why the arts are so important at this desperate time, inspiring us not to yield, never to despair.