Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:09 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 6:09 pm, 2nd March 2021

I will just say to John Spellar that art knows no boundaries or borders.

The creative sector is the life and soul of Glasgow North, and it has been a huge privilege to represent its talent of all kinds—established an up-and-coming artists of every genre and generation imaginable—and venues to suit them all, from the small Hug and Pint on Great Western Road to the famous Stand comedy club, Òran Mór and Cottiers, and across the city there are even more world-class venues. But they were some of the first to close, and they will be the last to reopen.

Artists have been some of the hardest hit by the restrictions of the pandemic. To be a performing artist or work in the creative industry is not a hobby; it is a way of life and a way of making a living. We have heard that throughout the debate, and I have heard it from so many of my constituents. Its contribution is not just economic; the cultural and social value cannot be measured. Art helps us to understand the world around us, and that will be only even more important post pandemic.

I reflected recently that live performances are definitely one part of the old normal that I have missed the most. I am looking forward to them coming back in the months to come. But that return will not be by magic. Performers do not just get up on stage and perform for the first time. As the right hon. Member for Warley said, no one began their career playing the O2; they need to rehearse and prepare, and they need physical space and support to do that. They need a supply chain behind them of sound and lighting, supplies and materials, but again many of my constituents in those sectors have been hit hard. Some of that is to do with the models of employment and contracts that have been part of the industry to allow flexibility and creativity, but that means they are some of the people who have been most likely to find themselves excluded from the Government’s support packages. If they end up on universal credit, the uncertainty about what even that paltry income might look like only exacerbates the situation. Compare that to what a universal basic income might have looked like, or even the certainty that the German furlough has provided.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been—even in difficult circumstances—real achievements. I pay tribute to the incredible virtual Celtic Connections festival that took place, and I know from friends and constituents that online tutoring and performance will undoubtedly be part of the new normal. There have been collaborations of different kinds of creativity, too: I think of House of McCallum whiskies, based in Glasgow North, whose McPink blended Scotch features a design by artist Ashley Cook on the packaging. Our craft and boutique spirit distillers and producers lend their own creativity to the arts sector and need support, too.

We welcome what support the Government in the UK and in Scotland have been able to provide, but they need to live up to the rhetoric we are hearing from Ministers today with support going forward. Certainty is what is needed to help get our artists back on their feet and back on the road—and that is crucial for artists and audiences alike.