Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 6:06 pm, 2nd March 2021

My city is fortunate to have not one or even two theatres, but three. Live performance was an integral part of life in Peterborough before the virus struck and, thanks to the support available from the Government, it will be again. Our theatres were really struggling last summer—I do not pretend that times are rosy now, but thinks did look bleak—and I wrote to the Secretary of State setting out the problems the arts faced in Peterborough.

For the New theatre, in particular, which relied entirely on its own box office receipts, those problems were closing in. Given the troubled history of that venue, it would have been a tragedy to have lost the New theatre just after it was revitalised and was enjoying success. I congratulate Alex Davies-Jones on her support for the wrestling industry. As the vice-chair of her all-party group, she might be aware that the New theatre was the venue for my pro wrestling debut last year, before lockdown. On the other side of our city is the Key theatre, which is, as its name suggests, absolutely key to Peterborough’s identity. It was an important part of my childhood and I want it to be an important part of the childhoods of both my daughters and of countless other young people in Peterborough. A short trip outside the centre takes us to Bretton, where we have The Cresset, which is the perfect example of a successful multi-purpose venue.

To have three theatres in a small working city such as Peterborough is a cultural achievement. We are proud to have them and they are crucial to our plans for future growth and regeneration. All three theatres were under severe financial pressure last year. The Key theatre is owned by the council, which provided support, but that left the other two, so I was thrilled that the New theatre and The Cresset received nearly £900,000 from this Government’s cultural recovery fund. Overall, Peterborough got £1.1 million, helping not just our theatres, but wonderful organisations such as Peterborough Sings!, a musical education charity that runs four choirs and lots of outreach work.

I am incredibly grateful for this action to save our cultural life, but, as with any financial support, while covid restrictions continue the money will last only for a finite period. That is why I am so pleased to hear that there may be £400 million available for the sector. I know that the Minister will hear pleas from across the country, but I assure him that there is no more deserving place than Peterborough. I also hope that Ministers will do what they can to facilitate a speedy return to normality. Our theatres do not want bail-outs; they want to perform.