It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh, and a pleasure to get the opportunity to big up my own constituency of Glasgow Central, which I am sure must be among the most musical constituencies in the country. We have not only been awarded a UNESCO City of Music status—the only city in the UK other than Liverpool to have that status—but we have a wealth of different venues and talent in the city.
We are at the moment in the midst of Celtic Connections, an event founded in 1994 to give light to cold winter nights in January and to bring people into the city, and it now has a programme of more than 300 events over 18 days, with 2,100 musicians from about 50 countries. In addition to having events within venues in the city, it also works in the community through an education programme to involve the next generation, and this year, for the first time, through Celtic Connections in the Community, it is working with BEMIS to extend it to people with ethnic minority backgrounds within the city as well, which is really important when we talk about traditional folk music and making sure that it reaches and involves as many people as possible.
We also have within the constituency iconic venues such as the Barrowland Ballroom, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the Hydro and the SEC. The Hydro, which opened in September 2013, brought £131 million to the city in its first year. It has helped the regeneration of Finnieston, where it is now impossible to get a bad meal, and has brought new people and new growth into the area, providing the jobs that go with that as well.
We are incredibly lucky to have the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the constituency as well. When I went on a tour of the RCS, every door that was opened would bring some delight, with different types of music being played in different ways and people making music together who might not have found each other otherwise. It is a real boon to have that in the city.
We also have organisations such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra, Scottish Opera, and younger bands such as SambaYaBamba— who played outside in Parliament Square on one occasion, which stopped the traffic in the city. It is great to see such joy being shared. For young people we have a Big Noise Sistema orchestra, based in Govanhill since 2013. In recognition of some of the work of Big Noise, Nicola Killean, the CEO, got an OBE in the new year’s honours. They work with children in Govanhill, from St Bride’s, Holy Cross, Annette Street and Cuthbertson primaries and nurseries, and with Holyrood Secondary. They work with 1,200 children a week, bringing together children who have very different backgrounds—many children in Govanhill do not have English as a first language—and all the outcomes from the project have been extraordinary. As I said, in an area where children might not have much English, they can communicate with music and enhance their abilities. All the outcomes from this project found by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health have noted how it increased confidence, academic skills, resilience and happiness. I am not quite sure how we measure happiness, but it is certainly very much worth investing in for the good of the community.
I also want to mention the risk, which is something for the Minister to take away to the Home Office. There are significant risks in the way the Home Office conducts itself, and risks with Brexit with regard to visas and with the ability of artists to move and transport equipment. Donald Shaw of Celtic Connections has flagged that in the press. He mentioned particularly the risks for American people looking to book to come here and the way in which African and Indian artists are treated. He says they are treated very badly in the application process and that it is all about suspicion rather than welcome from the UK. Last year, six artists from the Devasitham Charitable Foundation in Chennai were unable to come when two blind artists were not allowed a visa from the Home Office. I ask the Minister to reflect on that and on the success story of music in Glasgow and in Scotland and do all that he can to make sure that that continues in future.