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Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

Part of High Speed 1: Rolling Stock – in Westminster Hall at 3:05 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central 3:05 pm, 21st January 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Conor McGinn on securing this debate and on making such a great speech.

I am very grateful for the opportunity today to speak about music, particularly live music venues, which I always take the opportunity to champion because they are very precious and, as we have heard today, constantly under threat. I represent a city centre constituency, in a city known not just across the UK but around the world for its songs, its singers and its musicians.

We have a very rich cultural history in Cardiff, and I am determined that we will have a rich cultural future too. To ensure that that happens, we need to ensure that our school music teachers have the resources and time to inspire pupils from the earliest age to participate in music and to understand the joy and wellbeing, which have been discussed today, and the opportunities that singing or playing an instrument can bring.

We know, though, that the past 10 years of Government austerity and the savage cuts to the Welsh budget have made the provision of music much more difficult. I think that is the pattern across the UK. I pay tribute to the music teachers up and down the country who do such a great job—actually, for them it is not a job but a vocation—in such difficult circumstances. But it is not only the teachers; it is the talented volunteers who conduct our orchestras, who transport children and their instruments to eisteddfods and who fight for venue space and practice venues every day of the week.

In the centre of my constituency we have independent live music venues of all types and sizes, catering for every possible taste. I promise hon. Members that if they come to Cardiff Central, on every night of the week they will be able to listen to great live music of some type or another, from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the incredible auditorium that we have at Saint David’s Hall and the noise bowl of the Principality Stadium, where I saw the Rolling Stones, to Fuel Rock Club, Clwb Ifor Bach and the Globe.

However, since I was elected in 2015, it feels as though colleagues and I have been continuously fighting to save live music venues across the constituency, from the Womanby Street campaign to saving Guildford Crescent and Gwdihŵ and, just this week, another live music venue, 10 Feet Tall, a small but long-standing venue under threat of closure. We have built a grassroots movement in Cardiff, with Daniel Minty from Minty’s Gig Guide, the Music Venue Trust, the Musicians Union and UK Music, to value and support venues and to try to save as many as possible.

Our Labour council in Cardiff has set up a music board to champion our music scene locally, nationally and internationally, and to protect and promote music at grassroots and all levels. I am proud that our Welsh Labour Government was the first Government in the UK to introduce the agent of change principle into planning guidance and to help to protect live music venues. Along with colleagues here, I co-sponsored the Bill by my right hon. Friend John Spellar to do the same in England, and I worked with a Labour colleague to do that in Scotland too.

I will briefly mention our Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on our live music inquiry, which took detailed and comprehensive evidence from across the sector and made a series of recommendations to the Government to protect and enhance the contribution of live music to our economy and society. We know what the problems are, and we have heard about them today. They include business rates, planning development pressures, the need to extend creative industries tax reliefs and parity of funding for grassroots venues through bodies such as the Arts Council. Talking of arts councils, yes, we need to continue to support high arts and culture, but I also want those kids who are setting up their first band in their mum’s garage to have parity of support.