Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

Siobhain McDonagh Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn
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21 Jan 2020, 2:45 p.m.

I do, and I will come to that in my closing remarks.

I could say much more about music in my constituency—I am keen to talk about it to anyone who wants to listen to me—but I want to let other colleagues in, so I will move on, but, before I do so, I want to mention our strong brass band tradition. I am proud to be the vice-president of Haydock Brass Band. We have Rainford Band and Valley Brass. We also have the fantastic St Helens Youth Band, which is nurturing the next generation of talent, and the amazing all-female Trinity Girls Brass Band. They are all national award winners. We also have a fantastic male voice choir in Haydock, which has recently won a national competition.

The St Helens music education hub, led by the local council and supported by the Arts Council, is supporting opportunities for schoolchildren to be introduced to music, but it needs more funding and support.

It is clear that music makes a huge contribution, both economically and socially, in our local communities. What do we need to do to ensure that it continues to flourish in the challenging years ahead? I will briefly highlight some areas that the Government need to focus on during this Parliament as part of an integrated strategy for music.

First, grassroots music venues remain vital to both artists and audiences, but they are still, as has been mentioned, closing at an alarming rate. We must continue to monitor that and respond accordingly. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar), working in collaboration with the Government, did a tremendous job to ensure that planning laws were amended to integrate the agent of change principle to protect music venues from closure.

[Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Challenges still exist on business rates. I welcome the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to ensuring that music venues benefit from rate relief, but when precisely will that come into effect? Will the Government commit to more frequent business rate revaluations to guarantee that huge hikes in rates do not occur again?

Secondly, copyright provides the framework of growth for music. New protections for creators are coming in the form of a copyright directive that will enable fairer payment to musicians from services such as Google’s YouTube, but our expected departure from the EU may mean we cannot implement the directive after all. Will the Government outline their plans to implement the spirit of the copyright directive and other legislation? The deputy chief executive of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, recently wrote to the Prime Minister. Will the Minister let us know when he can expect a reply?

Thirdly, despite music’s success, there remain significant challenges to our talent pipeline. It is fair to say that we face a crisis in music education, which underlines the threat to our ability to develop future talent. Arts funding in St Helens, which includes music, is down by a quarter since 2013. One of the most working-class areas in the country, which has a proud tradition of music, has seen its funding diminish. Over the past five years, the number of people studying A-level music has declined by 30%. We know that social divides are leading to inequality of opportunity, so will the Government work with schemes such as UK Music’s rehearsal spaces network to increase the provision of music in areas like St Helens? The Government’s commitment to an arts premium might present benefits, but when does the Minister expect to come to the House to provide more detail on what that will entail? Can we see progress on the new national plan for music education?

Fourthly, we know about the importance of music exports: the Government currently support the music export growth scheme, and the international showcase fund contributes to that. What plans are there to ensure that funding remains for those vital schemes?

Fifthly, the music industry relies on workforce that is heavily self-employed—about 72%. What plans do the Government have to make it easier for self-employed people to participate in shared parental leave, given their current disqualification and the benefits to overall diversity in allowing them to participate? I pay particular tribute to my friend Olga FitzRoy for her work on that.

Fiscal incentives such as tax credits have produced huge benefits for other creative sectors, but currently music does not benefit from the same mechanism as film, TV and video games. Will the Minister commit to working with the Treasury to see whether similar support can be made available?

Finally, Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement, in both people and goods, could have a profoundly negative impact on the live music touring experience. Will the Government work towards a passporting arrangement, so that there is a reciprocal system and musicians can continue to perform with minimum disruption post-Brexit? Will they work with EU member states to ensure that the imposition of a carnet system on music equipment does not cause delays to gigs?

In closing, I pay tribute to UK Music, the umbrella body for the commercial music industry. Its chief executive, Michael Dugher, formerly of this parish, will soon be moving on to new pastures. On behalf of everyone in this place who takes an interest in music, I pay great tribute to the tremendous work he has done and the way in which he has led his organisation to aid our understanding.

I applaud the work of UK Music’s chairman, Andy Heath. Andy has been at the helm of UK Music since its inception and has held together the interests of its members. When I look at the unity of purpose within UK Music, in a very diverse sector, and then look at other sectors that do not have that, I see how his formidable leadership has brought people together.

PRS for Music is led by the excellent, recently-appointed Andrea Martin, alongside long-standing chairman, Nigel Elderton. I have a special award for John Mottram who does a lot liaising with Members of this House to promote music.

PPL is led by the superb chief executive Peter Leathem, who, like me, is of good Armagh stock. I applaud the other UK Music members—the Association of Independent Music, the British Phonographic Industry, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Ivors Academy, the Music Managers Forum, the Music Publishers Association, the Music Producers Guild and the UK Live Music Group. They have worked together with great tact and diplomacy, and influenced this House. I especially thank Horace Trubridge and the Musicians’ Union. He is held in high esteem in the trade union movement and the music industry, delivers much for the union’s members and plays a hugely constructive role.

The day before the Prime Minister took office in July, the outgoing Administration produced a disappointing response to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s excellent report into live music. The response failed to grasp the true ambition and potential of our music industry, or to adopt some reasonable and sensible recommendations made by the Committee. This debate presents an opportunity for the new Government. I welcome the Minister, who is returning to his place; I know how much he is personally invested in the subject and pay tribute to him for it.

The new Government can start afresh and set out a new and exciting strategy for how they see the music industry contributing to our lives. I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate, and I welcome the support of other Members in this aim.

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.

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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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21 Jan 2020, 3:12 p.m.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh, and a pleasure to get the opportunity to big up my own constituency of Glasgow Central, which I am sure must be among the most musical constituencies in the country. We have not only been awarded a UNESCO City of Music status—the only city in the UK other than Liverpool to have that status—but we have a wealth of different venues and talent in the city.

We are at the moment in the midst of Celtic Connections, an event founded in 1994 to give light to cold winter nights in January and to bring people into the city, and it now has a programme of more than 300 events over 18 days, with 2,100 musicians from about 50 countries. In addition to having events within venues in the city, it also works in the community through an education programme to involve the next generation, and this year, for the first time, through Celtic Connections in the Community, it is working with BEMIS to extend it to people with ethnic minority backgrounds within the city as well, which is really important when we talk about traditional folk music and making sure that it reaches and involves as many people as possible.

We also have within the constituency iconic venues such as the Barrowland Ballroom, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the Hydro and the SEC. The Hydro, which opened in September 2013, brought £131 million to the city in its first year. It has helped the regeneration of Finnieston, where it is now impossible to get a bad meal, and has brought new people and new growth into the area, providing the jobs that go with that as well.

We are incredibly lucky to have the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the constituency as well. When I went on a tour of the RCS, every door that was opened would bring some delight, with different types of music being played in different ways and people making music together who might not have found each other otherwise. It is a real boon to have that in the city.

We also have organisations such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra, Scottish Opera, and younger bands such as SambaYaBamba— who played outside in Parliament Square on one occasion, which stopped the traffic in the city. It is great to see such joy being shared. For young people we have a Big Noise Sistema orchestra, based in Govanhill since 2013. In recognition of some of the work of Big Noise, Nicola Killean, the CEO, got an OBE in the new year’s honours. They work with children in Govanhill, from St Bride’s, Holy Cross, Annette Street and Cuthbertson primaries and nurseries, and with Holyrood Secondary. They work with 1,200 children a week, bringing together children who have very different backgrounds—many children in Govanhill do not have English as a first language—and all the outcomes from the project have been extraordinary. As I said, in an area where children might not have much English, they can communicate with music and enhance their abilities. All the outcomes from this project found by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health have noted how it increased confidence, academic skills, resilience and happiness. I am not quite sure how we measure happiness, but it is certainly very much worth investing in for the good of the community.

I also want to mention the risk, which is something for the Minister to take away to the Home Office. There are significant risks in the way the Home Office conducts itself, and risks with Brexit with regard to visas and with the ability of artists to move and transport equipment. Donald Shaw of Celtic Connections has flagged that in the press. He mentioned particularly the risks for American people looking to book to come here and the way in which African and Indian artists are treated. He says they are treated very badly in the application process and that it is all about suspicion rather than welcome from the UK. Last year, six artists from the Devasitham Charitable Foundation in Chennai were unable to come when two blind artists were not allowed a visa from the Home Office. I ask the Minister to reflect on that and on the success story of music in Glasgow and in Scotland and do all that he can to make sure that that continues in future.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
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21 Jan 2020, 3:15 p.m.

I apologise for what I am about to say, but unfortunately contributions will now have to go down to three minutes.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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21 Jan 2020, 3:19 p.m.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh, and to follow some excellent contributions. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) for securing the debate. I want to draw attention to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Interests and also pay tribute to UK Music and the Musicians’ Union, who have done so much at different levels to promote the industry and the challenges that it faces.

Coming from a working-class background, I know the impact of music in my own life. Comments have been made about the importance of music education, and free and affordable music education made a difference to me. I had opportunities as a youngster, particularly with free music education in school, and also through things such as the South Glamorgan and Cardiff and Vale youth orchestras and choirs, which gave me the confidence to go on later in life to perform at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and the Edinburgh Fringe, and for President Bill Clinton with the a cappella groups that I have taken part in. I would not have had those opportunities and the confidence to perform if I had not had those free and affordable opportunities when I was younger.

I second much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) said about Cardiff’s reputation as a music location, but also about the challenges that we face in terms of live venues. I support the campaigns that she and others have led around Womanby Street, Guildford Crescent and elsewhere. I also pay tribute to the many venues.

I have an incredible creative sector in my constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth. We are host to the Wales Millennium Centre, the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which is not only an incredible orchestra but provides many film and TV soundtracks, including recently for “His Dark Materials”, which has been syndicated around the world. The music is by a Scottish composer, Lorne Balfe, but the BBC National Orchestra of Wales recorded it. I also pay tribute to the many smaller creatives and others who are generating the next generation of talent: people such as Shelley Barrett, who runs Talent Shack, and, at the other end of the spectrum, Penarth Soul Club, enabling people to engage in all types of music locally. We have venues such as the Tram Shed and the Norwegian Church, which I want to see retained for community and cultural use, including music. We also have more classical venues such as St Augustine’s in Penarth.

I want to add my support to two crucial issues. One is around Brexit and the campaign by the Musicians’ Union on the crucial need for an EU-wide touring visa for musicians who are working, and we want to see that last a minimum of two years, be free or cheap, and cover all EU member states. We want to get rid of the need for carnets and other permits, and, of course, we want to cover road crew, technicians and all the other staff necessary for musicians to do their job.

I also want to highlight the incredible community impact of so many musicians. In my constituency and more broadly, 85% of orchestral musicians who joined the industry in the past 10 years are involved in community outreach, and 97% of all orchestras. Groups such as the Keith Little jazz trio in my constituency in Penarth do incredible work with organisations such as Music in Hospitals & Care. I was able to see the work they were doing, funded by the Waterloo Foundation, during the recent election campaign. Veterans’ choirs also provide opportunities in music to a whole new range of people.