I congratulate my hon. Friend Conor McGinn on securing this important debate.
Growing up in Sheffield in the 1990s, I took access to live music venues for granted, and we had access to not just some of the best venues in the country, but some of the best music in the country. When I was a teenager the Arctic Monkeys were starting to gig at the Grapes, the Boardwalk, and the Harley, as were bands such as Reverend and the Makers, Milburn and Longpigs. Sadly, not one of those venues still hosts live music today, but all those bands would say that without them it would not have been possible for Sheffield to produce the groundbreaking music that it is now internationally renowned for. I am told that when Radiohead toured with their debut album, “Pablo Honey”, they played 400 music venues of around 500 capacity across the UK. Only three of those music venues are still open today.
Those venues are the incubator of talent and we are feeling their loss across the music industry in the UK today. What is more, arts and culture funding too often gravitates towards prestige and towards London, rather than flowing towards talent. Jon McClure, the “Reverend” of Reverend and the Makers, said to me ahead of today’s debate:
“It is certainly true that the arts have become the preserve of the rich kids, for boys and girls like me are now excluded in the main, through a lack of access to the networks of power, combined with a lack of resources.”
That is why today’s debate is so important, as is the incredible work of UK Music and other bodies, such as the Musicians’ Union. They have fought to save threatened venues, which they recognise as the heart of a revival that must come.
I am incredibly proud to sit on Sheffield city region’s music board, which was set up by UK Music and our Mayor, my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis. It is the first to be set up outside London and is an essential part of the revival. It promotes work such as that of Higher Rhythm, which delivers the breakthrough artist development programme to give intensive support to six Yorkshire artists annually, with a package of opportunities to help them to make tangible progress in their careers. However, we must do more. We have heard about the importance of music education, and I hope that the combined authority will look at UK Music’s proposal to create six music education hubs across the region. We must ensure that the agent of change principle is properly implemented in all our communities, and the Government should look at extending existing relief schemes to cover live music venues.
Finally, no Government can claim to be serious about global Britain while cutting off our greatest cultural export at the knee in the Brexit negotiations, so I hope that the Minister will look carefully at the musicians’ passport. I want the kids in my constituency to have the same opportunities that musicians had in past decades. I want them to be rewarded based on talent, and not on networks or how many followers they can buy on social media. I want them to be able to showcase their talent on stages in Sheffield so that they can then showcase it to the world. Those things are not “nice to haves”. They are fundamental to our economy and culture, and they tell the world everything about what it is to be British.