My constituents and I are very lucky to have many rich cultural institutions on our doorstep: the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley zoo and castle; Wren’s Nest site of special scientific interest; the Canal and River Trust; nature reserves; our microbreweries and pubs; our bowling greens and parks—the list really does go on. The past year has undoubtedly had a huge impact in many ways on this sector, but with its resilience and Government support, such as the culture recovery fund and the zoo animals fund, our museums, zoos and entertainment venues will once again see us all flocking back to them.
I am proud of the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley for playing such a pivotal role in our recovery from the pandemic by playing host to a major vaccination hub in our area. I have been volunteering there weekly, and I have seen at first hand the work and support of museum and NHS staff and volunteers. The museum is due to begin major works on its capital development, with a £30 million investment in the local community made possible by support from funders including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s culture capital kickstart fund via the culture recovery fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the Black Country local enterprise partnership.
Dudley zoo is another fantastic organisation in the constituency that has benefited from financial support to help sustain it throughout the period of closure. I have been in contact with its director, Derek Grove, who has led a fantastic team to ensure that, despite the closure, the zoo’s animals have been looked after, with vital conservation work continued. But despite the Government’s generous support, finances, particularly for zoos such as Dudley’s, have been left far too tight for comfort.
The Budget tomorrow is a crucial chance for the Government to continue their historic and world-leading investment in our cultural and entertainment sectors. Our cultural and heritage venues are much more than just places for us to visit with families and friends on a day out; they are places of work and vital contributors to our local economies, conservation and biodiversity, and they will all play a big part in our recovery from the pandemic.
I hope and look forward to hearing how the Chancellor and our Government will further support our cultural and entertainment organisations throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond, to ensure not just a sharp bounce back but their longevity into a successful future.