Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

David Warburton Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
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I apologise to all right hon. and hon. Members for my late arrival. In spite of that, the debate is well supported, meaning we will need contributions of four minutes; I apologise for that.

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.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
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I am proud of Manchester’s great musical tradition, which includes our world-class orchestras, the Hallé, the Manchester Camerata and the BBC Philharmonic—whose guests are seen at concerts on a number of occasions—and our superb music institutions, Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. As we have heard, they make a great social, economic and cultural contribution, not just to Greater Manchester and our region but nationally and around the world.

There is a massive payback on the investment that we make into the music sector, but funding is a real problem, especially for regional orchestras and musicians. What more can the Minister do to work with the Treasury to encourage and support regional philanthropy, including through possible fiscal measures? I also make the case for sustainable and secure public funding. That will soon be a particular issue for the BBC Philharmonic, as consideration is given to the future of the licence fee.

Our music institutions have all highlighted to me the importance of developing a pipeline of talent. Our great orchestras, college, music school and music services have adopted a partnership approach. I pay particular tribute to the Trafford music service, led by the amazing Ruth O’Keefe, which is part of the Greater Manchester music hub and gives many children in Trafford the opportunity to develop their musical potential.

As I have said, developing talent to its full potential through classical and intensive training is important, not just to the classical music sector; those musicians also provide the bedrock of all other genres, including film, pop and TV music. Musical education is very important to allowing young people to achieve their full potential through the highest quality classroom music activities, instrumental lessons and participation in choirs, bands and groups.

One issue that I have been asked to raise in particular, which the Minister could perhaps discuss with his counterparts in the Department for Education, is chaperone licensing. The music service is subject to stringent chaperone licensing, similar to commercial businesses and different from what would be required for schools more generally. That puts real cost and administrative burdens on the music service. Is the Minister prepared to pursue the concerns that the music services are raising with me with his colleagues in the DFE?

The work that is done by our music service and in our schools and classrooms is supplemented by our orchestras’ own fabulous activities. The Hallé Orchestra, for example, has welcomed literally tens of thousands to the Bridgewater Hall to perform and train with its own professional musicians. The BBC Philharmonic’s “Ten pieces” and “Bring the Noise” programmes have also been very well received.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) rightly pointed out the benefits of music in reaching some of our most disadvantaged and marginalised communities. We see some innovative approaches to this work, for example by the BBC Philharmonic again, partnering with the Royal Northern College of Music on the Pathfinder scheme. I also join him in commending the excellent work of the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. I have seen its work in my constituency with people with learning difficulties, with refugees and with people with dementia; it has the power to transform and light up those people’s lives.

Nordoff Robbins believes, and I agree, that everyone should have the right to participate in music in ways that meet their needs. There is a particular opportunity, therefore, to develop music therapy in the context of social prescribing. Again, I wonder whether that is something the Minister could discuss with his counterparts, this time in the Department of Health and Social Care.