Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham 6:27 pm, 2nd March 2021

As many Members across the House have said, fewer sectors have been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than our cultural and entertainment sector, which is an absolutely vital driver for our incredibly important hospitality sector in North West Durham.

First, I thank the Minister for the culture recovery fund and heritage emergency fund money that has come the way of North West Durham. We have seen over £500,000 for Durham and Darlington music education hub. Ushaw College has had over £500,000 in total. Durham Wildlife Trust has had £45,000. The Weardale Museum, a really important new local venture, has had £45,000 as well, but the largest support for the sector has come through the furlough scheme and the grants for local pubs and clubs that have really made a difference to so many businesses and cultural venues in North West Durham.

At the moment, we are seeing a huge investment in Durham from Durham County Council, but very little of that is coming to my constituency. In fact, in a recent survey I did, 91% of my constituents said that they are very unhappy with the fact that Durham County Council is spending £63 million on leisure services across the county, but there is hardly anything for my constituents.

That is in sharp contrast with local people themselves, who are putting their shoulders to the wheel. I think particularly of David, who runs The Roxy in Leadgate, a really important former cinema and then bingo hall that he is trying to rejuvenate. I urge the Minister to ask his colleagues whether it would be possible to visit David, because it is a fantastic project. We have some superb local bands, including the Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band, and some superb local institutions, such as the Weardale Adventure Centre, which has missed out on the culture recovery fund. I urge the Minister to have a word with the Chancellor ahead of the Budget tomorrow, because those rural outdoor education settings are so important.

Me and my hon. Friends the Members for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) have a bid to get the Weardale railway going again. It is a really important heritage site, connecting so many of our cultural and entertainment sectors. I hope that the Minister will use his good offices to help us lobby the Department for Transport to get that over the line. Finally, I would like to commend the many people in my local area who work in this sector. It is vital now and for our recovery, and I hope that the Minister will have some positive words with the Chancellor to help the sector recover and grow.