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This is my first time speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, and I am grateful that it is on a subject so close to my heart. I congratulate my hon. Friend Conor McGinn on the way he has led this important debate.
Last week I gave my maiden speech, in which I waxed lyrical about how my constituency gave the world the Welsh national anthem, Cwm Rhondda, and Sir Tom Jones. The south Wales valleys are built on industry and music: both go hand in hand. Were it not for the coal mines, we would not have our world-famous brass bands, which are synonymous with culture and heritage. My hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock mentioned the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North referred to his constituency’s bands, and I pay tribute to them, but in Wales we have the world No. 1 brass band, the Cory Band—a fantastic symbol, spreading Welsh culture and heritage across the world and at home. Were it not for our chapels, we would not have our choirs, whose hymns and arias are synonymous with rugby.
Speaking of my other love, we all know that Wales is a mecca for sport tourism. The Principality stadium is the rugby venue envy of the world. I am sure that anyone here who has had the privilege of being in the stadium on match day, hearing the anthems belted out, will agree that it is nothing short of spine-tinglingly awesome. However, for all the sporting glory that Wales has to offer, Members may not know that in 2018 Wales welcomed more than 350,000 music tourists, who helped to contribute £124 million to the Welsh economy. That figure is growing.
We need to do more to protect grassroots venues, helping them to thrive in our communities. My hon. Friends have mentioned some of the work they have been doing to protect such venues in Wales. Just before Christmas it was announced in my constituency that Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council will be working with the Awen Cultural Trust and the Arts Council of Wales to totally transform the much-loved Muni, in Pontypridd. Plans to improve the arts centre include investing £4.5 million to create a first-class arts and entertainment venue for residents in my constituency and beyond. That is wonderful news, and I cannot wait to attend the first concert, once the Muni reopens in the summer.
One of the things that I am most passionate about is nurturing future talent, including reversing the decline of music education, so that children from every background have access to music. I am extremely fortunate that I was able to learn not one or two but four different instruments at school. I do not profess to be a concerto-worthy soloist—I am more of a jack of all trades as a performer—but I would never been able to have those opportunities were it not for the vital funding of peripatetic music education in my comprehensive school. I welcome the strides that the Welsh Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is making in that field, and support the Welsh Labour Government’s feasibility study on the options for delivery of music services and the creation of a national plan for music education.
Wales has a long tradition of inviting performers from Europe to play at festivals, venues and eisteddfods across Wales, and other hon. Members have mentioned the impact that Brexit could have on that. I know that the Welsh Labour Government will do all they can to ensure that Wales remains open to performers from across Europe after Brexit, and will look at all avenues to ensure that such cultural exchanges can still take place.