With the road map to releasing us from lockdown now published, there cannot be many sectors that are breathing a bigger sigh of relief than the cultural sector. For cultural and entertainment businesses, lockdowns and restrictions have put limits on exactly the thing they thrive off. For example, the Exchange arts centre in Keighley is one of many fantastic entertainment venues in my constituency that give local musicians a chance to showcase their talents in front of enthusiastic crowds. Inevitably, limits on social contact have had a detrimental impact, with the pandemic forcing venues to cancel events and close their doors. Financial support has, of course, been welcome, but for businesses such as the Exchange, nothing can truly compare to a busy bar and a live performance on stage.
Lockdown has opened up many new opportunities and ways of doing things. For example, a band called Deco is trending on social media at the moment. They have released some awesome mash-ups of contemporary music and 80s pop, with their recordings taking place on Zoom. I urge the Minister to take a listen to their “Wonderwall” and “Smalltown Boy” mash-up.
Everyone in the music industry is desperate for us to get back to normal, and the same can be said for many businesses in the tourism industry, of which there are many in my constituency. People come from near and far to enjoy the Brontë country, or to take a ride on the Keighley and Worth valley railway. The pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard. When tourist attractions such as the Keighley and Worth valley railway or the Ilkley toy museum are thriving, that has a positive impact on many businesses across Keighley and Ilkley. If people visit those attractions, they also go to the pubs, restaurants and cafes. If pubs and restaurants get more demand, so will local breweries such as Timothy Taylor’s, Wishbone brewery, or Ilkley brewery in my constituency. Accommodation venues such as Upwood holiday park in the Worth valley can then accommodate those visitors. I cannot exaggerate the importance of cultural and tourism attractions to our local economy. When those venues lose revenue, so do many other businesses. That is why Government support for these industries has been so welcome over the past year, but I must continue to urge the Government to ensure that, as we reopen our cultural and entertainment economy, support continues until restrictions are removed in their entirety, as these industries rely on ticket sales, seats being filled and bars being full. Until these venues are given the full green light to open, running profitably or even at a break-even level will continue to be a challenge for many.