Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

Damian Collins Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
David Warburton Portrait David Warburton (Somerton and Frome) (Con)
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21 Jan 2020, 2:52 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, and to have another opportunity to talk on a subject that is close to my heart.

I thank the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) for securing this debate and for his record of championing the interests of music and musicians in this place. I echo his tribute to the outgoing chief executive of UK Music, Michael Dugher, for all his fantastic work during his tenure. I know that wherever he goes in the future, he will continue to be a passionate and important advocate for music and the creative sector.

As we leave the European Union, and with the majority Government we have now, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The direction that we choose to take will have enormous ramifications across almost every aspect of Government policy. As UK Music pointed out in its post-election letter to the Prime Minister, that is particularly true in respect of the future of the music industry.

Before turning to policy specifics, it is worth talking about something more fundamental: music education. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music and vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music education, and as a former—not very good—music teacher, I have spoken on this topic on a number of occasions; I apologise to anyone who has been unfortunate enough to hear me before. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister spoke about smoothing out regional disparities and levelling up the parts of the UK that have felt neglected under successive Governments. In the case of music education there is a similar disparity that needs levelling up.

Around 50% of students in independent schools receive music tuition, compared to just 15% in state schools. According to last year’s “State of the nation” report, there has been a fall of 6.4% of curriculum time dedicated to music between 2010 and 2017. Last year’s Department for Education workforce data showed a drop in the music teacher workforce at key stage 3 of an enormous 26%. This is not the place for a debate about the school curriculum, but I restate my keenness for the Government to re-examine the possibility of adding a sixth pillar to the EBacc. As I have said before, a core curriculum that excludes the arts is an oxymoron.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)
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21 Jan 2020, 2:54 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there have been some fantastic examples of regional success? Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford, which the Select Committee looked at, has transformed its curriculum and put music at the heart of everything it does, and has seen a dramatic improvement in the school’s results

David Warburton Portrait David Warburton
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Absolutely; my hon. Friend is entirely right. There is some superb work going on around the country, particularly with music hubs, although it can vary from one place to another. The music hubs alone have enabled more than 700,000 children from state-funded schools to learn a musical instrument.

Many challenges faced by the music industry are also a demonstration of its enormous success. As we have heard, the “Music By Numbers” report shows a record £5.2 billion contribution to the UK economy last year, and record employment within the industry, with nearly 200,000 people directly employed in the music sector. It is a further tribute to both the resilience and the success of our music industry that we saw a 10% increase in overseas visitors to UK shows and festivals last year. When Parliament was mired in the Brexit mud, many of us enjoyed the mud at Glastonbury, some of the car parks and the furthest, most distant and inaccessible fields of which are in my constituency.

As this Government give definition to Brexit, it is worth remembering how much we ought to keep from our membership of the European Union. In a previous life, my company used to provide the global mobile content for Napster, Kazaa and many others. The explosion of streaming means that music has become even more commoditised, with almost all recorded music instantly available, but with platforms, such as YouTube, coughing up almost homeopathic amounts to artists and composers.

With little time left, I will talk to the motion and emphasise why music is so valuable for society, not just in economic but in absolute terms. For several years I worked as a music teacher at a rather gritty comprehensive school in London. I have seen at first hand the transformational effect that music can have, particularly on the outlook of the most profoundly disadvantaged and disengaged students.

As hon. Members will know, Goethe memorably described architecture as “frozen music”. Without wanting to be grandiose, music can act as “liquid architecture”, providing the structure and creative discipline that is enhanced, rather than compromised, by the joys of aesthetic satisfaction.

--- Later in debate ---
Jo Stevens Portrait Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab)
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21 Jan 2020, 3:05 p.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) on securing this debate and on making such a great speech.

I am very grateful for the opportunity today to speak about music, particularly live music venues, which I always take the opportunity to champion because they are very precious and, as we have heard today, constantly under threat. I represent a city centre constituency, in a city known not just across the UK but around the world for its songs, its singers and its musicians.

We have a very rich cultural history in Cardiff, and I am determined that we will have a rich cultural future too. To ensure that that happens, we need to ensure that our school music teachers have the resources and time to inspire pupils from the earliest age to participate in music and to understand the joy and wellbeing, which have been discussed today, and the opportunities that singing or playing an instrument can bring.

We know, though, that the past 10 years of Government austerity and the savage cuts to the Welsh budget have made the provision of music much more difficult. I think that is the pattern across the UK. I pay tribute to the music teachers up and down the country who do such a great job—actually, for them it is not a job but a vocation—in such difficult circumstances. But it is not only the teachers; it is the talented volunteers who conduct our orchestras, who transport children and their instruments to eisteddfods and who fight for venue space and practice venues every day of the week.

In the centre of my constituency we have independent live music venues of all types and sizes, catering for every possible taste. I promise hon. Members that if they come to Cardiff Central, on every night of the week they will be able to listen to great live music of some type or another, from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the incredible auditorium that we have at Saint David’s Hall and the noise bowl of the Principality Stadium, where I saw the Rolling Stones, to Fuel Rock Club, Clwb Ifor Bach and the Globe.

However, since I was elected in 2015, it feels as though colleagues and I have been continuously fighting to save live music venues across the constituency, from the Womanby Street campaign to saving Guildford Crescent and Gwdihŵ and, just this week, another live music venue, 10 Feet Tall, a small but long-standing venue under threat of closure. We have built a grassroots movement in Cardiff, with Daniel Minty from Minty’s Gig Guide, the Music Venue Trust, the Musicians Union and UK Music, to value and support venues and to try to save as many as possible.

Our Labour council in Cardiff has set up a music board to champion our music scene locally, nationally and internationally, and to protect and promote music at grassroots and all levels. I am proud that our Welsh Labour Government was the first Government in the UK to introduce the agent of change principle into planning guidance and to help to protect live music venues. Along with colleagues here, I co-sponsored the Bill by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) to do the same in England, and I worked with a Labour colleague to do that in Scotland too.

I will briefly mention our Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on our live music inquiry, which took detailed and comprehensive evidence from across the sector and made a series of recommendations to the Government to protect and enhance the contribution of live music to our economy and society. We know what the problems are, and we have heard about them today. They include business rates, planning development pressures, the need to extend creative industries tax reliefs and parity of funding for grassroots venues through bodies such as the Arts Council. Talking of arts councils, yes, we need to continue to support high arts and culture, but I also want those kids who are setting up their first band in their mum’s garage to have parity of support.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins
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21 Jan 2020, 3:10 p.m.

On the subject of the Select Committee report on supporting community music venues, does the hon. Lady agree with me that it is also important that local towns have a robust plan for their own areas to support venues? Folkestone in my constituency has launched a music town initiative. It is important that local authorities work with venues to support them both in terms of business rates and how they sit with the local planning regulations as well.

Jo Stevens Portrait Jo Stevens
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21 Jan 2020, 3:10 p.m.

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman, who, as Chair of the Select Committee in the previous Parliament, did such a fantastic job of leading our Committee on the inquiry. I want to see music boards in every town and every city so that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their talent.

Lots of questions have been asked of the Minister, but may I add two more to his list? The Government’s response to our report was very thin. I appreciate that it was right at the end of July, but will there be a statutory consultative body to promote the protection of music venues so that they can provide advice to local authorities on the implementation of the agent of change principle and see how it works in practice? We are still waiting—it was not responded to in the report—for a full post-legislative memorandum for the Live Music Act 2012. Will the Minister address that in his comments?