Economy and Society: Contribution of Music DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Pete WishartMain Page: Pete Wishart (Scottish National Party - Perth and North Perthshire)
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 the Member for St Helens North (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 the Member for Barnsley East (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.
I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, including my membership of, and support for, the Musicians’ Union and PRS for Music.
I open by sending a message to Michael, as the song says, and pay tribute to the outgoing chief executive of UK Music, Michael Dugher, for the tremendous job he has done during his tenure, not only because of the way in which he communicates with Parliament but because of his personal passion for music—not just for Paul McCartney, incidentally, but all kinds of music—which shines through in everything he does and in the representations he makes on behalf of the music industry. I wish him well. I also pay tribute to Andy Heath, the outgoing chair, who has done a fantastic job with that organisation.
I went out to lunch many years ago with the former chief executive, Feargal Sharkey, when he announced the setting up of UK Music in the first place. It seems to me that, over the course of that decade, the way that the music industry has got its act together and effectively communicated its message is due in no small part to the efforts of people such as Michael, Feargal and Jo Dipple, who have led the UK Music with such distinction over that period of time.
I also pay tribute to everyone who contributed to the debate, particularly my very good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who quite rightly mentioned—as well as lots of other issues that are so important to the debate—the impact of organisations such as Nordoff Robbins and of music therapy. Having myself volunteered for Nordoff Robbins in a care home on one occasion when I was the Minister responsible for charities in the last Labour Government, I can testify to the tremendous work that it does and the impact that its work has. My hon. Friend rightly raised all the significant issues for the debate, and I shall rehearse them a little bit during my remarks and perhaps add one other issue as I go along.
We had a speech from the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton), who chairs with great distinction the all-party parliamentary group on music. I welcome very much what he said about music education. I hope that he presses the Ministers in his own party and Government very hard to deliver much more effectively on music education, after seeing personally the transformational effects of music, in his own life, as a music teacher and rightly highlighted during his speech.
I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), whose remarks featured the very important contribution made by our orchestras in particular. I praise the Association of British Orchestras for the work that it does to promote orchestras. My hon. Friend rightly emphasised the importance of formal training and the impact that that has beyond the classical repertoire, in our film and television industries and so on.
I have seen the son of the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) perform, and he is a very fine jazz musician; and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman—it is obviously in the genes—on his own record as a church organist. He is right about the power of music therapy and the impact on people with, for example, autism.
I would also like to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), my immediate constituency neighbour, and pay tribute to the incredible work that she did, along with other colleagues, on the live music and protecting live music in our city of Cardiff. That was done along with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), who told us that he had once performed for President Clinton. I think that that is probably a unique distinction, as is the distinction that we heard about from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), who told us that he is the only former nightclub DJ who is a Member of Parliament—I have not heard anyone else try to claim that distinction in the course of the debate.
I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) for her contribution. As well as highlighting the incredible amount of music going on in her constituency in this sector, she rightly highlighted the problems for musicians with the Home Office. She was absolutely right to draw attention to that.
We have therefore had a great debate. It was also added to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), who mentioned Longpigs. She will know that of course the chair of the Ivors Academy of Music Creators, Crispin Hunt, is a former member of Longpigs. With the Ivors Academy, he is doing great work in promoting the importance of songwriting and the interests of composers.
My new hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) reminded us why Wales is so well renowned for its contribution to music. I thought that she sounded like the Rev. Eli Jenkins in “Under Milk Wood”, who said, “Thank God we are a musical nation.” My hon. Friend was almost musical in her contribution today.
The main issues that we need to address have been mentioned in the course of the debate. Grassroots music venues were mentioned quite frequently. I welcome what the Government have done about rate relief. Last year, I went with the outgoing chief executive of UK Music to meet the former Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge him to do the very thing that the Government are now pledged to do, so I hope that the Minister will give us a bit of an idea of the timetable for that and how it will be implemented.
Music venues are the R&D of the music industry, and when they are closing down, that is the canary in the mine—to mix metaphors a bit—for the industry. If music venues are closing down, there is trouble ahead for our music industry, so the Government do need to work with the sector, including UK Music, to develop a thorough strategy for the future of our music venues, and I hope that they will do that urgently.
We also heard about freelance employment and the nature of employment in the industry and the campaign of Olga FitzRoy and others in relation to shared parental leave for the self-employed and freelancers. That is a particular issue in the music industry.