Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:02 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 2:02 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, has done, I want to talk about the creative economy, which, because of Covid, is now in the kind of financial trouble that the Government and the public do not yet fully grasp. The National Theatre, the Old Vic, the Young Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells and the Southbank Centre are among those under threat, and some of them could enter administration before the end of the year unless financial help is at hand. Nuffield Southampton Theatres already has, and other regional theatres and many other arts organisations, both large and small, may well follow.

We urgently need emergency funding on the scale that Germany provided for its arts and creative industries over two months ago. That package was worth €50 billion, in a country where the state bears a significantly greater burden of the funding. It is good that the Arts Council is providing some emergency funds, although they will not in any conceivable way cover the scale of the problem, and it is a diversion of funding that was intended for new projects.

One of the lessons that we should learn from this is that the greatest vulnerability lies in the commercial component. In the case of theatres, museums and live music, the loss of ticket revenue is disastrous, and many private museums are also under threat of closure—and we have to add to this the fact that our theatres and music venues are going to be among the last out of the lockdown.

I applaud the setting up of a cultural renewal task force, but that should not be a substitute for new emergency funding or an excuse for delaying such help. The task force needs to be a vehicle for the targeting of such funding. In that sense, music, the book trade and local government are among those that also need representation.

From our great theatres and dance companies to individual performers, including authors, musicians and comedians, in the last few months we have enjoyed on YouTube, radio and TikTok wonderful performances entirely for free from those who are currently earning nothing. It is time that we gave back in a big way.