Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:18 pm, 2nd March 2021

At the start of the pandemic, I of course knew what a wonderful cultural background we had in Blaydon constituency, but I had no idea just how many people there were and how rich a cultural landscape there was. There are so many people engaged across music, events production, the arts and cultural activities in my constituency, and it has been wonderful to meet them and to learn about their respective industries and the issues they face. Of course, the creative industries in our region, like elsewhere, are interwoven. From freelancers to small businesses, they all form a complex web, relying on the health of the collective to flourish and function as an industry. So the pandemic, once it hit, hit people in this sector hard. The events industry shut down overnight, galleries closed and music venues shut. Sadly, none of them has opened up since.

Things have moved on since my initial conversations with them, but some of the people and businesses in my constituency have been badly affected. Mandylights, a lighting and creative design business for large-scale events, tells me that the industry still requires continued support. The RNB Group, which runs corporate events, told me that it has lost more than £1.5 million in revenue. Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, a well-respected development agency for writing and reading in the north, highlighted the cultural recovery funding. She applauds that funding from DCMS, but notes that it is focused on supporting buildings, performance, and gallery-based activities. There are hidden issues about smaller and non-building based organisations not getting access to that recovery support. The work that those smaller organisations do often directly supports freelance artists, other creative practitioners, and technical support companies. Last year, New Writing North provided work for 190 freelancers.

The north-east has a proud history of cultural investment: the Angel of the North, Baltic, the Sage—there are so many to mention. I am pleased that work is going on in the north-east culture partnership, bringing together all 12 local authorities in the north-east, and I urge the Minister to look at that. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, and the future looks bleak for many dance teachers and freelancers who are women. On top of that, the visa issue for those who work or hope to work in the EU is a problem. The Government need to support freelancers. Getting the creative industries back to pre-pandemic growth is essential.