Cultural Attractions: Contribution to Local Economy — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:12 pm on 6th October 2020.

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Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 3:12 pm, 6th October 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I have the honour to represent Liverpool, Riverside, covering the city centre and the waterfront, with its world heritage status, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors in a normal year. There are five art galleries and four museums, including the International Slavery Museum, which is the only one in the country dedicated to the history of the transatlantic slave trade. People will have seen our streets and listed buildings in shows and films. In 2017, 289 films and TV shows were shot, contributing over £11 million to our local economy. We have five theatres, including the Everyman and Playhouse, two large arenas and music venues—too many to count. Liverpool is not a UNESCO city of music for nothing.

We might be synonymous with The Beatles, but the city has a rich and diverse music history that reaches back to the 18th century. Our Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is the UK’s oldest continuing professional symphony orchestra, and it marks its 180th anniversary this year. We are a city that leads culturally, from the Merseybeat sound to Eric’s and the punk scene in the 1970s and 1980s to the global clubbing brand Cream. We are home to the annual Africa Oye, the largest festival of African music in the UK, and the Liverpool International Music Festival, which was the largest European music festival in 2018.

Liverpool has gone from strength to strength since its capital of culture days in 2008, doubling its visitor numbers and becoming synonymous with cultural innovation and creative excellence. We have a thriving independent sector and when our city does culture, it does it big, it does it loud and it draws people in. We only have to view the numbers who have visited our Giants spectacular. Liverpool boasts around 68 million visitors annually, bringing more than £5 billion to the city region and creating 57,000 related jobs—or it did, until covid-19. What was a booming sector is now facing a serious threat to its existence. While the additional culture recovery grant funding announced earlier this year by the Chancellor was very welcome, it is short term, a stop gap, a sticking plaster on a gaping wound: it does not address the looming funding crisis for many of our arts and cultural venues.

Liverpool is now under further local restrictions, which will severely limit visitor numbers and will pose a significant threat to the sustainability of our venues. At the heart of our famous and rightly celebrated scouse culture are people—performers, actors, musicians, producers, technicians and support staff. They are what makes Liverpool’s cultural sector punch above its weight. I will end with a quote:

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

That means financially supporting all of our artists.