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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:24 pm on 6th October 2020.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 3:24 pm, 6th October 2020

I do not intend to take up 11 minutes, Sir Charles, unless I am intervened on several times. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair. I congratulate the local MP, Nickie Aiken, on securing this important debate. She set out the stark statistics, and the real issues facing the creative sectors, very well.

There have been some fantastic speeches this afternoon. I do not have time to touch on them all, but the point made by both hon. Members for Cardiff, Kevin Brennan and Stephen Doughty, who is no longer in his place—[Interruption.] Apologies: he is lurking behind me—we can do the panto bit now. The point about the Chancellor’s attitude to those who work in the creative sector was very well made and one with which I very much concur.

I also agreed with Andy Carter when he mentioned the importance of panto. My children would ordinarily be very much looking forward to Paisley’s PACE Youth Theatre panto this Christmas, but sadly that will no longer take place.

Of course, in the contribution from my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss, that great Renfrewshire commuter town that lies to the east of my constituency, we heard some fantastic points, particularly about the Scottish Event Campus in hers, which I frequent often.

As we enter the fag end, as I like to call it, of 2020—it has been that sort of year—we are looking to put this pretty desperate year behind us. If there were any justice in the world, we should be looking forward to Paisley celebrating its tenure as UK city of culture 2021. I have never spoken again to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury since he, as a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister, announced Coventry as the winner of that competition—but in all seriousness, I wish Coventry well in 2021. I am sure that, despite the difficulties presented by the situation that we all face at the moment, it will deliver a fantastic and impactful programme and secure a great cultural, economic and social legacy from that.

The word “culture” still elicits a curious response from many. Culture is for everyone, but many still instinctively think of highbrow sophistication, snobbery and elitism at the opera or theatre. That is a long-held but unfair reputation. People are just as likely to sit next to a snob at a stand-up comedy act—as I did at the Stand in Glasgow last time I was there—as at the opera. In case anyone thinks that I am doing opera down, I should say that in my stint as the branch fundraiser, one of the more risky events—that ended up being one of the most successful and enjoyable events that Renfrew SNP ever held—was an opera concert at Renfrew town hall.

The truth is that culture, in whatever form, enriches us all, individually and collectively. That is the case whether it is live music in stadiums, village halls or the pub; theatre, including panto, and opera and theatre productions big and small; stand-up comedy; or, of course, museums and galleries.