Arts - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords am 11:51 am ar 1 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Bragg:

Moved by Lord Bragg

That this House takes note of the contribution of the arts to the economy and to society.

Photo of Lord Bragg Lord Bragg Llafur

The creative arts generate more revenue than the life sciences and the aerospace and construction industries combined. Add the input from television, films, advertising and broadcasting and we are faced not with a charming marginal activity but with an industry ready to grow to the massive benefit of this country, commercially and educationally, and equally in areas such as health and social equity.

First, however, the arts industry needs a radical overhaul. At present, it is dangerously patchy and punching way below its weight. Last year, there were over 3 million job roles in the creative and cultural industries—and there could be more, if we recognised and reached the full potential of what is still considered too often to be the cherry on the cake. The arts are not the cherry on the cake—they are the cake. It is the opportunity this society needs to reform itself, to replenish all parts and pockets, and to stem the slide to the bottom of just about any listing that appears. It is an open goal.

There is no doubt that this country could build itself up through a cultivation of the arts, and a determination to release its energies and take on the mantle of other places and other times—this is not too fanciful—such as Athens, Florence and elsewhere, which transformed their societies through the arts. Why cannot we do so? We have the skills, but what we need is the vision and the will. We need to think of the arts as an industry, and a new industry, which it is.

What we have to build on deserves attention and often praise. Cities which have imploded, especially in the north, because of government abandonment and investors seeing no future beyond the stock market—I will take three: Newcastle and Gateshead combined, Leeds, and above all, Manchester—have regrouped and found profit from their engagement with the arts. This goes for similar smaller venues too: Keswick in Cumbria, middle-sized cities such as Bath, and towns such as Cheltenham. In many places, the arts have reinvented and magnetised dying conurbations. However, this still does not provide the fundamental requirement, which is to engineer a deep change which will be universal.

To get to the best, we need to take a close look at the worst. Recently, the Times chief cultural correspondent, Richard Morrison, said that British theatre is “dying” and “in a dreadful state”, its demise hastened by the dominance of television and streaming, and that

“Those theatres not facing closure because of local authority budget cuts … are struggling to attract audiences for anything except musicals and famous plays featuring famous actors”.

National Theatre Wales has lost its subsidy from the Arts Council of Wales. Creative Scotland has received a big cut from the Scottish Government. An all-party report from a House of Lords Select Committee last June commented that the current Government policy towards the sector is

“complacent and risks jeopardising the sector’s commercial potential”.

It is strange that, although over the past decade the creative industries have grown at 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy and contributed billions of pounds of business activity and exports, again and again these profits drain away and the only begetter of the arts is left stranded on overdrafts. This is at least unfair and at most blind to the power and potential of the arts.

When they built the first steam engine, they did not say, “Okay, we can do it—we’ll stop now”. They went on to create a network, here and abroad, with a brilliant non-university workforce. Why do we stop here now, in this country, when it is losing its theatres, its music and its dance? We are sleepwalking into permanent mediocrity, and cultural institutions once the guardians of the arts have, in crucial cases, become accessories to this deterioration.

The Arts Council, for example, set up in 1948, in those flagship years of public service, has been of the greatest value for the arts, especially its arm’s-length management. Yet in November 2022, English National Opera was given 24 hours’ notice by Arts Council England that all current funding would be withdrawn and the company removed from the national portfolio by April 2023. This was said to a company approaching a century of often outstanding work: opera in English; free ticket schemes for young people; 51% of audiences first-time bookers; and a world-class infrastructure. The way in which this was done disgraced the Government. Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, “instructed” in a short letter—she used the word several times—Nicholas Serota, chairman of the Arts Council, to do as the Government, that is, Nadine Dorries, dictated. We had become, it seemed, a state-run arts country, one step away from the dictatorship of the state on the agenda. Without being rude, what on earth was she playing at? Who did she think she was, and why did the Government back her? Dr Harry Brünjes, chairman of ENO, fought it, and eventually the Government shifted their ultimatum back a few years. What on earth is going on? ENO makes a profit, just as importantly as it makes a mark on the future of opera in this country. The magnificent Royal Opera House is incomprehensibly besieged by not dissimilar troubles.

Ms Dorries did not stop there. She threatened the reviewing of the BBC licence fee by 2027 in such terms that the BBC knew it would have crumbled—a policy which seems to have been adopted by her successor. So far, the BBC has stood firm. We will see what happens in the media debate. The finest cultural institution in this country is the BBC. Classical music would be bereft without it. From the Proms to new composers, music of all genres is given airtime. BBC drama on television has pulled in some of the most memorable work over the generations, as have discussions and features on the radio. In the broadest sense, BBC radio is a tailor-made embroidery of our tastes, aspirations and intellectual achievements.

Then there is the World Service of the BBC, surely our greatest ambassador. From the diurnal to the most distinguished, the BBC defines the range and ambition of our society. Yet it is under constant attack from those who envy it and want to capture its audiences, not to make better programmes. There is to be a debate on the media in your Lordships’ House quite soon. I trust that this House will develop some themes which are brought out today, and come out emphatically to leave the BBC unweakened.

The key word is “education”—to change the society thoroughly. This can lead us to a new state of the arts. I owe much of the next passage to the composer Howard Goodall. In the last century, there were the county music services, free instrumental lessons, Saturday morning music schools, orchestras and choirs. After 2020, these services were transferred into “hubs”, a private enterprise model. The local authorities lost responsibility for them and the slide began. In 2022, the number of hubs was reduced nationally from 116 to 43, in direct contradiction to consultations saying that this would be the worst possible option for state schools. The 43 hubs had to do the same work as the 116, and on the same money.

The uptake in GCSE music has dropped from 50,000 entrants in 2009 to 29,000 in 2022. Consequently, staff numbers in music and other arts have dropped dramatically. The noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, in her excellent speech on the depletion of support for the performing arts, referenced this, pointing out that

“the decline in teachers of dance, drama and music”, and in “teaching hours” and “position in the curriculum”, is disgraceful,

“nor is there support for small music venues, which are closing down at the rate of one a week”.—[Official Report; 30/3/23, col. GC 108.]

Mr Sunak promised assistance, but none has arrived yet.

Howard Goodall writes that what has happened to music education in the past 13 years is a “seismic reconfiguration”. He continues that “the Conservative agenda being driven through the Arts Council seems to be to let classroom music die out in state schools”. The Department for Education met only 27% of its target for newly trained music teachers last year.

In 2008, under a Labour Government, a programme was funded that revived group singing in 97% of all primary schools in the country, with a verifiable increase in discipline, attendance and work in classrooms. Music mattered—it lit the flame— but the scheme was dropped. Why cannot the 93% of children in our state schools receive the same musical offering that the 7% in private schools take for granted? It is shocking, unfair and just wrong—and what a waste. Just imagine what talent could be released and what benefits would flow were not only music but all the arts given a chance to be a part of the engine of growth in a country which used its proven assets—talent, flair, cultural enterprise—to grow to its full potential? Of course, this needs more investment and rescuing from the doldrums, but look at how we are wasting money at the moment. We are squandering it. What enormous rewards could follow from building up the arts. Let us look again at the Industrial Revolution—the greatest revolution, I would say, that the world has ever seen. Why do we not have an Industrial Revolution for the arts? It is possible.

Finally, Professor Daisy Fancourt has just delivered a book to be published first in America. If ever utterly conclusive proof were required of the benefits of the arts in our society, here it is—she has nailed it. She says: “In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that after 3,500 studies, it had cast-iron evidence of the deep and widespread health improvements which came from the teaching of the arts, from neurological disorders to child development. Cohort studies have shown that tens of thousands of people of all ages benefit physically, emotionally, and intellectually by going to galleries, by dance and singing in choirs”.

I shall not club your Lordships with statistics at this stage, but the evidence of the connection between the arts and intellectual health has now been conclusively made. We have scientific proof that art exercises the imagination and feeds us in positive, unique and lasting ways. We cannot afford to ignore this. We can no longer go on to cut, stint, cancel and slash. If we are to bring up generations whose minds and feelings are moulded by the best work, good teachers, and multiple opportunities, we could indeed make a brave new world. Why not, and why not start now? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Vaizey of Didcot Lord Vaizey of Didcot Ceidwadwyr 12:03, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, who has given so much to the arts over so many years. I briefly declare my interests as a trustee of the Tate, chairman of the Marlow Film Studios and a cultural broadcaster on Times Radio, broadcasting from the South Bank, but not quite to the same level as the noble Lord, Lord Bragg.

The funding for the arts in this country is not actually insubstantial, if you take the direct grants to museums, the grants through the Arts Council, the BBC itself, the tax credits which extend from film through to theatre and museums and, of course, university and local authority funding, although I accept that local authority funding is under intense pressure at the moment. This Government also deserve a great deal of credit for the support they gave the arts throughout Covid. My noble friend Lord Mendoza is not in the Chamber today, but he and Ministers worked tirelessly to ensure that the arts were supported. Nevertheless, it will not surprise your Lordships to learn that I think we can still give more.

I take a very simple view: that the arts budget is effectively a rounding error in terms of what government spends across the piece. It could be increased substantially for the arts insignificantly for what government spends overall, and it would make a difference. My thesis has always been that the Government should decide effectively what their national champions are—the national museums, flagship theatres, not just those in London but around the country—and fund them properly, securely and long-term, not to such an extent that it stifles their creativity, enterprise and philanthropic needs, but certainly to ensure that they do not have to keep looking over their shoulders to see whether they can keep the roof on. That to me is what one could call a no-brainer.

At Tate, for example, we have not lost our ambition. Tate Liverpool is going through its first major refurbishment for 40 years. Tate St Ives has acquired the Palais de Danse in St Ives, where Barbara Hepworth made her sculptures. We are building a new storage centre, which will be open to the public in a very deprived area of London. Please help these national institutions match their ambition.

I noted that the noble Lord focused on the economic impact of the arts, and there is no doubt that the arts and creative industries are some of our most successful industries. Their wider impact has also to be taken into account. I do not really like these terrible economic reports which say that for every pound you spend on the arts you get £500 back. I think they are nonsense—but we are world-leaders, and the arts have a huge impact on health, education, criminal justice and soft power.

The arts are the venture capital for really successful industries, such as our film, television and video games industries. Marlow Film Studios could not exist if it were not for the incredible talent that exists through this country’s heritage in television and film, but Marlow Film Studios may not exist because of the chronic and appalling planning system that exists in this country. If we look at the planning guidance in this country, we can see that cultural heritage and assets come even behind Wetherspoon pubs. The sooner we put cultural assets and heritage at the heart of our planning system and speed it up, the better.

Finally, I love the system we have in the UK of what we call the three-legged stool—core government funding, enterprise and creativity, and philanthropy. It is important to acknowledge all the people who make that happen and say thank you—thank you to the people who work in the arts, who work for salaries far lower than their talents deserve or what they could receive outside. We must thank the philanthropists, who give so generously, two of whom are in the Chamber with us today, and thank business—and yes, thank BP for its grant to the British Museum. Finally, of course, we should thank my noble friend Lord Parkinson for being such an excellent Arts Minister, and for the hard work and devotion he gives to his job as a servant to the community that he works for.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 12:08, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is truly an honour to be speaking in a debate opened by my noble friend Lord Bragg. Probably like many noble Lords, I am a devotee of “In Our Time” and a great fan of his books. I intend to follow his speech and talk about the arts’ and creative industries’ place in the education and development of our young people and the generations who, we hope, will take this wonderful heritage forward into a prosperous future.

I was inspired to make this the subject of my short time to speak today by a recent visit to the National Theatre. I was treated to a tour behind the scenes and stages, which I thoroughly enjoyed—particularly, I have to say, the wardrobe department. I really appreciated the challenges that the National Theatre faces today, but I also learned of the extensive programme of education, learning, teacher support, training and apprenticeship which is on offer at our National Theatre. For example, it runs a scheme called New Views; it is a year-long, in-school playwriting programme for students aged 14 to 19. Each school is paired with a professional playwright, who supports students to write their own original 30-minute plays, one of which will be performed on the stage in the National Theatre. It is of course a struggle to keep that going under the current circumstances.

I thank the Royal Shakespeare Company for its briefing, which tells us that it has 30 long-term regional partnerships, made up of 280 schools and 15 regional theatres, all in areas of disadvantage. It says that

“talent and potential are everywhere, but opportunity isn’t”.

I would hate to see that threatened and not thriving.

Near where I live in Camden, the Roundhouse offers a huge range of poetry, music and performing arts for local schools and children. But we have to raise the money in those schools—I do so in my local school—to ensure that our children can go there.

Where I grew up in Bradford, the first art gallery that I ever visited was Cartwright Hall. We visited it as children; nobody every stopped us running around in it, which was probably very enlightened of the keepers there. Many decades later, last year, I took my granddaughter to its half-term arts activity, which was put on by the gallery for the local children in Manningham, which is one of the most deprived areas in the country.

St George’s Hall in Bradford is the Yorkshire home of the Hallé Orchestra; last year was its 155th music season. I went from my comprehensive school to its concerts. Today, the tickets for school students are £5 each, I am happy to say, but we have to raise the money for those children to be able to attend.

A huge favourite in our family is the Wonderlab at the Science Museum. I see many schoolchildren go there. It has a sister museum in Bradford, the National Science and Media Museum, which is doing “Back to Space” as its trip for the half-term holidays. I think that we will be in London this half-term because we are getting only a day off, so my family and I will probably go to the British Museum, with its wonderful and extensive programme of learning and family activities—or we might take advantage of the amazing offerings of the National Trust. Quite why this Government have made a perverse ideological decision to focus on culture wars and target the National Trust, our fantastic and wonderful national treasure, is a complete mystery to me.

I mention these places and programmes not just because I love them but because they are a small number of examples of the richness of our arts and cultural heritage. Theatres, galleries, museums and community arts projects are absolutely vital as an investment in the future, sustainability and prosperity of this sector, which we neglect at our peril. Labour’s vision is that, no matter where they live or who they are, every single person should have the opportunity to create and consume excellent art and culture.

Photo of Lord Berkeley of Knighton Lord Berkeley of Knighton Crossbench 12:12, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this necessary debate. It is necessary because, notwithstanding the Minister’s undoubted love of the arts and the money secured during Covid, we find ourselves currently in the midst of a crisis—a crisis brought about largely by ill-considered decisions whose ramifications reach deep into the cultural fabric of our society. Should we make a special case for the arts? Yes, on so many levels, including the return that they bring to our economy, our well-being and our standing in the world.

Out of deference to the gifts of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, let me start with literature. Books are provided, as they should be, for those detained at His Majesty’s pleasure. However, I am reliably informed that, in areas of deprivation such as Haringey, primary school libraries have bare shelves compared with our prisons. That is shocking. The Minister may say that this is a matter for the Department for Education, but I suggest that it falls well within the area of our debate today because, if young children do not have sufficient access to reading, what chance do they have of becoming literate and, ultimately, potential writers—an area where we are world leaders?

It is this failing at the most basic educational level that so worries me, be it in literature, music, art or drama. Yes, there has been some improvement in music in schools but, essentially, most state schools—as opposed to private ones—are miserably catered for, with hardly any peripatetic teaching and often a dearth of instruments. The DfE admits that there are recruitment problems in this area. Do local performances provide exposure and opportunity? Sadly not. As we have just heard, in 2023 in the UK more than one music venue a week closed permanently.

We know now that it is not just the very young for whom exposure to music is beneficial; research published this week shows how it benefits older people too. In fact, engaging in music throughout your life is associated with better brain health, according to a new study published by experts at the University of Exeter. Noble Lords advancing in age may like to know that the study found that, if you continue to play the piano into great old age, your brain will benefit enormously.

A few weeks ago—here I should mention my interests as listed in the register—I was working with the BBC Singers. I was amazed by their legendary ability to sight-read new scores. The fact that the axe was poised over their heads because of the cuts that the BBC has been forced to make by government was shocking, as were the ill thought-out and nonsensical Arts Council cuts to the London Sinfonietta, the Britten Sinfonia and the ENO. I concede that that there was mismanagement in the past but, in recent years, the ENO has fulfilled its outreach ambitions and the bringing in of a young audience. The fact that its music director, Martyn Brabbins, felt it necessary to resign over cuts to these musicians is a matter for which we should all feel shame.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, on the other hand, is a young musician for whom we can all feel pride. But his family say that they would not have prospered under the current provision of music in schools. When Sheku dared gently to suggest that “Land of Hope and Glory” made him feel uncomfortable, he was subjected to racial abuse; when I supported him by recalling that Elgar himself hated the jingoism attached to a piece originally written purely for orchestra, I, too, received abusive comments. Here, at least, in our condemnation of that sort of behaviour and of racism, I suspect the Minister and I will be as one.

Photo of Lord Kinnock Lord Kinnock Llafur 12:16, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I am very pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who continues to delight us musically and in every other way.

We take the arts for granted. I therefore warmly thank my noble friend Lord Bragg, who has done more than just about anyone else to demystify and popularise the arts in our country. That certainly matters because he is giving us a timely prompt—a spur—to our awareness in order to overcome our collective complacency; I mean the whole nation, not just this House.

Creativity in the arts and sciences, often fused in technology, is the sustainable raw material of modern times. We now need exploration and innovation as the means of maintaining life itself. Of course, they need funding; philanthropy is therefore invaluable. But society—certainly civilised society—should not depend on charitable largesse, especially when public investment in the arts magnetises and enables private investment. It pulls in rather than crowding out.

Public funding for creativity is therefore essential for the human spirit and for community cohesion and pride. However, crucially, the arts are also an economic cornucopia. Using a definition of “the arts” that is narrower than that employed by DCMS, last November’s McKinsey report, Assessing the Direct Impact of the UK Arts Sector, showed that, in 2022, there were 139,000 arts enterprises and 63,000 voluntary arts organisations. Some 95% of those professional enterprises were sole traders or small businesses; the other 5% included the BBC, which is the biggest single employer of musicians in the UK. The arts employed 970,000 people, including 350,000 self-employed, and generated revenues of £140 billion, tax receipts of more than £50 billion and gross value added of £49 billion. Local authority provision is an essential and substantial component of those totals—it is a keystone in the cultural arch—but, as the House knows, with £20 billion-worth of cuts to central funding since 2010, councils everywhere have pared back all non-statutory provision.

The effects on creative activities have been severe and, in some cases, ruinous. Such cuts in central funding are gross, short-sighted and socially, educationally and economically counterproductive. They impoverish lives, communities and the future. They inhibit individual opportunity, stunt aspiration and diminish global Britain. Despite that, so many creative people still valiantly respond to the adversity of cuts as a challenge to fresh inventiveness, rather than a defeat; they give so much more than they take. I wish them well and I want them to know that, although they are certainly underfunded, they are valued and not forgotten. A creative compact with the arts will come with a Labour Government, and the sooner the better.

Photo of The Bishop of St Albans The Bishop of St Albans Convenor of the Lords Spiritual 12:20, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this debate, and I am particularly glad we are debating the contribution of the arts not just to finance and the economy but to society. The arts are fundamental to human flourishing, to expanding our imaginations, to deepening our sympathies and to touching all aspects of our lives that, so often, the merely financial fails to engage with.

Of course, the arts do make a significant contribution to the wealth of this nation, and we are fortunate to be home to some of the world’s leading orchestras, musicians, playwrights, theatres, artists and galleries. In my own diocese in Hertfordshire there is a rapid expansion of studios that are attracting filmmakers from around the world, which is important. But the danger is that we do not give enough time and attention to thinking, “Where are these musicians and artists going to come from, and where are they first going to get the experience of the arts? Where are the ordinary people, in their homes and families, engaging with the sheer delight of creativity?” That is why I find it deeply sad that many young people do not have the access to artistic expression or musical education in their communities, homes, or, sadly sometimes, even in their schools.

As I go around the communities in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, I note that, in many villages, the only place with any communal singing left is the church; what was once a bigger part of communal life is dwindling. But the music and arts are not just for professionals: they should be accessible to all, and this really matters. I have spoken before in this Chamber about how many of the UK’s composers, including Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Howells, Taverner and Rutter began their musical careers because they were caught up in local music making in their churches. Without this opportunity, many of them might never have touched the artistic part of their lives and developed their skills.

A significant number of contemporary musicians also started out in local—sometimes church—choirs, such as Ed Sheeran, Annie Lennox and Chris Martin of Coldplay. The Royal School of Church Music is just one example of an organisation that is working at grass roots across our country to bring the joy of music making to so many others that would not otherwise experience it, for example through its Voice for Life course. In my own diocese, the St Albans chorister outreach project has worked with over 80 primary schools and given thousands of primary school-age children the opportunity to participate in and enjoy singing. The National Schools Singing Programme, run by the Roman Catholic Church, has already expanded into 27 of Britain’s 32 Catholic dioceses, reaching more than 17,000 children in 175 schools.

None of this is funded by the state, but, in some limited cases, all that is needed to get it going is some limited seed-corn funding. Yet, in the face of financial pressures, those very modest amounts of money have been renewed, which has enabled people to get going; it has given them a life experience of the joy of music and art and set them off in a career that has been such a blessing to many people. So my question to the Minister is: will His Majesty’s Government take a fresh look to ensure that we do not just fund flagship arts projects but have modest amounts of money to release the arts among a much wider group of people in our nation?

Photo of Baroness Rebuck Baroness Rebuck Llafur 12:25, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Kinnock, McKinsey published an arts report last November that described the UK as a “cultural powerhouse” that punches above its weight globally with a dynamic ecosystem of multipurposed talent. I thank my noble friend Lord Bragg—a true multitalent—for initiating this debate. I also mention my own interest, particularly in book publishing, as set out in the register.

The creative industries significantly grow our economy, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, and the civic contribution of the arts improves our health, well-being and happiness. Creative learning inspires children’s inquisitiveness, persistence, collaboration, imagination and self-esteem. The arts encourage social cohesion and lower crime, which is perhaps why all 18 year-olds in Germany are given a €200 KulturPass for cultural events, books or music.

A third key impact of the arts is soft power and international reputation. British writers are some of the top-grossing global film franchises of all time: think of JRR Tolkien, Ian Fleming and JK Rowling. The film of Alasdair Gray’s novel Poor Things has clocked up 11 Oscar nominations and the film of Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest has five. The BBC World Service is listened to by 318 million people weekly and the British Council engages with 650 million people annually.

The Royal College of Art and UAL are ranked number 1 and number 2 globally for art and design. Other countries revere, invest and showcase their creative successes, but not us. The BBC, an admired global brand, sits at the heart of our connected creative industries. It is a trusted provider of news and our largest commissioner of entertainment. But, instead of nurturing it, we freeze its income for two years, engineer a 30% decrease in funding since 2010 and give it a below-average inflation rise at the end of it. With the arts declining by 40% at GCSE and no government plan to improve literacy, oracy, creativity and music in schools, together with the downgrading of humanities at university, I fail to see how we will keep a pipeline of talent.

The destruction of our arts ecosystem began in 2010 with austerity cuts. Local authorities, traditionally the largest investors in culture, suffered a 40% real-term core funding cut over 10 years, with libraries, local theatres, museums and public art the first to go—making a mockery of the levelling-up agenda. Meanwhile, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, an astonishing one in seven primary schools do not have a library. It would cost £14 million to correct that and, if all children in the UK read for pleasure, the UK’s GDP would be up by £4.6 billion over a generation.

By contrast, France’s primary schools devote 10% of their time to the arts, all secondary schools have a cultural co-ordinator and art history is compulsory up to 16 years of age. Twenty years ago, South Korea decided to invest in the arts, and it is now the seventh largest creative cluster in the world. It increased funding by 14% last year and put £500 million into a public/private VC fund for the arts. The film “Parasite” won over 300 awards and four Oscars. “Squid Game”, K-pop and the Hallyu wave have powered the growth of other local industries, from food to cosmetics to tourism—which is why British creative leaders are all travelling to Seoul.

We did lead the world creatively and should have aspirations to do so again. We still have the creative talent, but not the policies or the funding, for our cultural industries to flourish at the heart of a growth strategy. We fail to recognise the innovation the arts initiate when coupled with science and technology. We make it difficult for our cultural activities to tour, to export and to be discovered. This has to change. We must invest in the power of art and in the creative industries that bring us such pride and recognition globally.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 12:29, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to contribute to this debate on the arts from the noble Lord, Lord Bragg. As the wonderful Darren Henley said:

“England’s artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries enrich our lives, increase our knowledge and open our minds to new possibilities”.

They not only are life-affirming but contribute around £126 billion in gross value to the economy and employ some 2.4 million people, so they are value for money and good for us too.

I declare an interest in that a son-in-law, Jon Rolph, is a talented television and radio comedy producer. His son Tom Rolph has already had leading roles in local musicals, with his amazing singing voice. Their skills have brought pleasure to many and will continue to do so, because of how important both music and comedy are to our well-being. I used to sing and play the piano. After the exhortation of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I will perhaps try to do better in the future.

It is enormously challenging for those talented in the arts to be recognised and employed to use those talents. It is a cut-throat business, severely damaged by Brexit and the pandemic. In many areas, artists struggle to survive, even when they are highly skilled, highly talented and very real assets to our national life.

The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, has a highly distinguished career in the arts. “In Our Time” always makes fascinating listening. Since listening this morning, I know a whole lot more about the Hanseatic League than I ever thought possible. Age is no barrier to achievement, as we see from amazing octogenarians, nonagenarians and even centenarians who are still contributing their artistic talents to our enjoyment.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, said so eloquently, the BBC is a national treasure if ever there was one. We see its significant contribution to education as well as enjoyment. It has the BBC Bitesize programme, its flagship educational website, and BBC Teach with resources for teachers and students alike.

We know that the Government are pressed for money, with health, education and housing all vying for well-deserved eye-watering amounts, if our people are to be housed, cared for and educated to the standards that we all wish for in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But the arts too need proper support if they are to continue to be world beating and economically advantageous.

As one fascinated by heritage arts and crafts, I congratulate the Minister on the part that he played in ensuring that the Government will at long last ratify the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; I thank him for that.

We hear that, since Brexit, teaching, lecturing, exhibiting, entering competitions and, importantly, trade with the EU for our brilliant crafts men and women has virtually ceased, which obviously affects the contribution of crafts to the economy. What provision will the Government make to ensure that the skills of our arts and crafts people will be supported so that the UK continues to hold its place as a creative centre in the world? What plans do the Government have to ensure that music, drama, dance and art are taught in all schools—various noble Lords have already identified that there has been a woeful shortfall in recent years—to ensure that the next generation has every opportunity to use its artistic talents to the benefit of the economy and for the enjoyment of us all?

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Services Committee, Chair, Services Committee 12:33, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I will come to my noble friend Lord Bragg later. I remind the House of my current and past interests, including as a former executive director of the National Theatre and a former deputy chair of the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I ask the House to be so good as to take it as read that I agree with virtually everything that has been said so far and that I anticipate agreeing with most of what will be said after I have sat down. I will strive to repeat none of it.

I will talk slightly differently about why I think the arts matter—not for their economic impacts, important as they are, nor because studying music improves our maths skills, for example, which it does, but for the power that the arts have to change us and thereby to change the world.

In the New Statesman last month, the journalist Anna Leszkiewicz wrote:

“In narrating this injustice with empathy, immediacy and urgency, television drama has succeeded where journalism has failed … The series has invited the average person to step inside the experience of Bates and so many others, to feel the iron walls of bureaucracy closing in on them, to take on their panic and powerlessness. It is an extraordinary and rare example of a drama not just capturing but creating a national moment”.

The only word with which I disagree is “rare”. She was, of course, talking about “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”. After it was broadcast, there was widespread confusion: “How did this happen? How did this drama have such an impact?” The hard-won experience and skill of researchers, producers, designers, a remarkable writer and director, and a peerless group of actors and many more took us into the minds of others, obliging us to confront experience that we do not have and perspectives other than our own. This is how a drama about the Post Office succeeded in altering the course of events when so much excellent previous research and journalism—on which, of course, the drama relied—could not.

All of us watching certainly gained knowledge, but much more importantly we gained insight. Our imaginations were engaged and we felt the “iron walls of bureaucracy”, the “panic and powerlessness”, closing in on us and we were moved. This is what art and artists can do: they link us to each other, remind us of our common vulnerabilities and help us to make sense of an often chaotic world.

Human beings need stories. It is how they learn. They need to hear them and to tell them. Art, in all its many forms, is how stories are shared. This is why encouragement of creative thinking should be central to any well-balanced school curriculum. Education cannot be about just acquiring knowledge, important as that is, but must also be about learning to process that knowledge, to challenge it thoughtfully and to use it imaginatively.

We live in a dangerous world—angry, frightened and divided. The power of the arts to help us navigate it has never been more needed. We must protect and nourish them. Now I come to my noble friend Lord Bragg, who has probably done more than anybody alive, in his extraordinary career, to protect and nourish them. I hope that I do not embarrass him by saying that he is a true national treasure but, more importantly to all of us, he is an inspiring colleague and has been for many years. How very lucky we are to have him.

Photo of Lord Parekh Lord Parekh Llafur 12:37, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too begin my comments by thanking my noble friend Lord Bragg for introducing this fascinating subject with great eloquence and passion.

I want to do two things. The first is to ask the question: what are arts? The question we are debating is: what is the contribution of the arts to the economy and to society? That raises two questions—arts and contribution—and I will say something on them both.

We have talked about arts for a long time, but I am not entirely sure what we mean by them. Some might ask whether sport is an art. Is cricket an art? Is billiards an art? What can one say? What would be the answer of those who were silenced by Mrs Thatcher, who was interrogating this, to the question of what snooker or cricket’s contribution to the economy or society is?

The first thing to do is to be clear about the arts but, since I cannot do this here, I will do it in my classroom. I simply say that art refers to an imaginative reconstruction of an object or activity. One creates an object and its bears one’s imprint on it. Through that imprint, one makes it distinctively one’s object and it can give a lot of pleasure to others.

The next question is far more important—contribution. The contribution of the arts can be at many levels. One can produce millions of DVDs, sell them and say that this is the contribution of the arts, but is this our interest here? We are interested in what is distinctive in the contribution of art, not just what is incidental but what is intrinsic to it. Art cannot be imagined without those contributions and we cannot imagine those contributions from any activity other than art, in any society.

I want to concentrate—because I think it is very important—on the distinctive contributions of art to any society, without which it is not really worth living in. I point to four contributions that art makes. First, it gives you self-knowledge. Art gives a society some understanding of what it is, the deeper forces working within it, and the deeper contradictions and self-knowledge.

Secondly, art points out the defects of society in an intelligent and meaningful way. It does not lecture and say, “You should be doing this”, but rather it subtly gets under your skin and points out what the defect is and how it needs to be rectified. That is why, for example, “Cathy Come Home” or “Mr Bates vs The Post Office” had enormous impact. You ask why, if this had been going on for all those years, nobody was moved? Why did we have to wait so long, until a 45-minute programme came along? My guess is that it is because art unsettles you. If you asked the millions of people who saw it and were influenced by it what moved them, they would give you all kinds of answers that refer to the internal mechanism of the human mind, which the art was able to touch.

Thirdly, art creates a community. For example, a novelist represents characters from different communities and introduces them to each other. If I do not know how a worker lives his life, by reading Dickens I begin to get a picture of how that person works.

Fourthly, and finally, as Toni Morrison said, art is my access to me—an entrance into my own inner life. By reading about art and people like me, I begin to understand myself. What more self-knowledge can there be than art? Religion is supposed to be the source of out self-knowledge: God alone knows us . The artist certainly does that: he holds a mirror to us and gives us some idea of who we are. A society lucky with its artists is a society that has a great contribution to make.

Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench 12:42, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this important debate, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg—whose status as a national treasure I am delighted to endorse—reminding all of us, not least the Government, of the importance of the arts. I will focus on music and its contribution to society.

So many of the events that define us as a society have music at their heart. Hatches, matches and dispatches all feature music—we sang some splendid hymns at Lord Judge’s moving thanksgiving service last week. Music figures at national occasions, such as the Coronation, Trooping the Colour and Remembrance Sunday. Music festivals, whether pop, rock, jazz or classical, are important to many of us, as are eisteddfodau in Wales. We express our affiliations to our country, religion or football team in songs and anthems. Where would we be without our choirs, orchestras and ensembles, including the Parliament Choir, my own contribution to which may or may not qualify as artistic? We even learned this week that singing or playing music might help to ward off dementia.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I agree with everything that has been said so far, and probably with everything that will be said. I will highlight two challenges facing music, both of which have already been mentioned.

Last week, I attended an event hosted by the Music Venue Trust, representing grass-roots music venues across the UK. I was shocked to learn that, as we have heard, the number of such venues shrank by more than one a week in 2023, with 42% of these closures resulting from financial problems. The trust does a great job of making music available locally through such venues, but much more help is needed, both nationally and locally. I hope that the Minister might consider what steps the Government could take to ensure a more sustainable ownership and business model for grass-roots music venues. Might he consider a ticket levy, with tickets for large-scale music events including a small contribution towards supporting grass-roots venues? There are other actions government might look at, such as reducing the burden of VAT or business rates on small venues.

As we have heard, issues around music education raise even greater concerns. The number of pupils taking music GCSEs and A-levels has been steadily declining. Art and creative subjects are excluded from the five EBacc subject groups, causing some schools to drop them altogether, particularly state schools, as we have heard. The Independent Society of Musicians highlights a teacher recruitment and retention crisis: targets for recruiting music teachers have been missed, and some schools may have to rely on non-specialist teachers or none at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, told us, the local music education hubs set up under the original national plan for music education have been consistently underfunded. They are currently preoccupied with a major reorganisation to reduce their number from almost 120 to 43—and will still be underfunded. How do the Government intend to assure that the excellent aims of the refreshed national plan—led by the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, who cannot be with us today—will be met, for the benefit of children across the country? What will the Minister do to blow the trumpet for music education and sing the praises of all those who contribute to it, so that music’s absolutely vital contribution to our society is sustained into the future?

Without music education, the music could stop. So come on, Minister. We recognise his personal commitment, and he has an excellent and ambitious plan to work with—why not give it a bit more welly?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Llafur 12:46, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, if everybody agrees with everybody else, I wonder where that leaves the Minister.

I will work on one thing for a couple of minutes: rural life. Governments—of all parties, to be honest—ignore rural life in the UK. The word “rural” has not crossed anybody’s lips, although we came close with the right reverend Prelate’s speech. This goes for the big arts funders as well.

I live in Ludlow. It is the case that citizens there cannot even get home from events in Shrewsbury and Hereford, 30 miles away, using public transport. We are on our own. I declare an interest, in that Helen Hughes, aka Lady Rooker, was the pro bono chief executive of the Ludlow Assembly Rooms for eight years, after it was disowned by Arts Council England. It contains a 300-seat auditorium, recently rebuilt to modern standards, and it is mainly run by over 100 volunteers. Events can be streamed from London and New York. A mixture of film, live shows and international streaming for thousands of people, including those with dementia and other impairments not catered for by the big battalions of the arts, are offered. But the base funding is crucial to help provide the infrastructure for such small organisations. In turn, they are crucial for artists to develop their craft—people often come to a 300-seat rural enterprise to test events for a bigger auditorium later on. Funders want innovation, while small organisations need core funding to stay ongoing.

We are 10 miles from the Welsh border. Annual performances by Mid Wales Opera fill the auditorium. Recently, “Beatrice and Benedick” packed the place out. Mid Wales Opera ensures that nobody in Wales and the Marches is more than 30 miles from professional opera through its touring programme, together with the outstanding work it undertakes in schools, providing an education programme that gives massive benefits to so many young people. But now, Arts Council of Wales, in its wisdom, has cut support to this innovating company to zero. It just does not care—that is the problem. Rural arts need more support and attention.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 12:49, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, as ever, it is a great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who put his finger on a very important issue. However, I return to the role that the arts play in activism and campaigning—what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans called “deepening our sympathies”.

The arts can engage us in a way that a thousand worthy leaflets or an informed speech simply do not. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, laid that out when she talked about “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”. It took an ITV drama to focus the nation’s attention; two decades of campaigning led up to it but had not been able to focus anybody’s attention on its sufficiently. I am amazed how the scriptwriter, Gwyneth Hughes, managed so brilliantly to condense all that into a drama.

A gut-wrenching example of a brilliant and powerful play that I saw in the last year was Suzie Miller’s “Prima Facie”, which starred Jodie Comer. That play examines a brilliant, hard-working woman who gets crushed between misogyny and the rules of the game devised outwith the reality of women’s experience.

In a very different genre, Ai Weiwei’s recent exhibition at the Design Museum was very thought-provoking. He is an absolute master of stating tragedy with great subtlety, and of addressing immense issues originally and strikingly. We are very lucky to have him living in this country.

At the moment, I am reading Prophet Song by Paul Lynch. I appreciate that he is an Irish writer; of course, the Irish support the arts rather better than we do. It rightly won the Booker Prize, and chillingly portrays the little steps it takes to descend into a totalitarian state: the removal of sympathy, the lessening of empathy as it seeps away from people, neighbours, work colleagues and even family, until the state, working on the resulting fear and isolation, takes total control. It is a very chilling book that I thoroughly recommend.

Paula Rego changed a whole nation’s attitude to abortion through her series of paintings, as the then President of Portugal acknowledged. The power of art to change society for the better simply cannot be overstated. There are lots of other examples of that.

Right now, at Tate Britain, there is a very moving mixed media exhibition, “Women in Revolt!”, which follows women’s activism and campaigning on everything from equal pay to advertising to war. It is a thoroughly worthwhile exhibition and only just down the road. However, it provoked in me the thought that we have come a long way in some regards compared with where we were in the 1970s, but there is still an awfully long way to go. The arts have a very big role to play in that.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 12:53, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a great privilege to take part in this debate on the contribution of the arts to the economy and society. It is even more of an honour to take part in a debate led by my noble friend Lord Bragg. For most of my adult life, he has been the cultural advocate to follow and one whose opinions on the arts, artists and the art world have shaped much of the national conversation. His contributions have made the arts accessible and helped us all to see their value, rather than to see the artistic endeavour as remote, highbrow and elitist. With others, he has argued the place of popular culture—a legacy to celebrate, surely.

In my few comments, I will draw attention to the role that the arts can play in regeneration, in particular in seaside and coastal communities. Living in and running a coastal city has, inevitably, shaped my view.

In 2018-19, I chaired a Select Committee on the future of seaside towns. Our report painted a depressing picture of decline and lost opportunity—of once thriving seaside communities feeling disconnected and left behind. Health and education, caring services, public transport, access to the arts and culture—all had outcomes infinitely poorer than in our major cities. We charted this decline from the 1960s, when many seaside towns lost access to the rail network and Brits with rising living standards changed their holiday habits. We concluded that none of this was inevitable.

The committee visited Cornwall, Clacton, Skegness, Blackpool, Whitby and Scarborough, and Margate. We heard from councils, social commentators, cultural entrepreneurs, MPs, Ministers, architects, regeneration experts and, most importantly, local people. In short, we listened to those with a passion for those communities and their potential.

One thing came across strongly. The British people have not fallen out of love with the seaside—visitor numbers remain high. They just view the seaside and our coast in a different light. The successful coastal communities we visited had a strong cultural imprint and had invested in the arts, education and culture. Margate, St Ives, Penzance, Scarborough and Falmouth had all taken a leap of faith, and it was evidently paying off.

Take my own city: back in the 1960s and 1970s it was a semi-industrial tourist town in economic decline but with the Brighton Festival, the arrival of higher education and the development of a college of art, it has shifted from being Keith Waterhouse’s town that looks like it is

“helping the police with their inquiries” to becoming the place to be. Now it is full of creatives, arthouses, art entrepreneurs, TV production companies, musicians, writers and performers. It has one of the UK’s highest business formation rates, many of them linked to the arts and the digital economy. The Brighton Festival, the Brighton Dome and the Royal Pavilion show an economic impact annually of some £60 million and support 1,200 jobs. It is an arts hub for the south.

Is this a miracle cure for the seaside economy? In itself no, but it is part of the answer. As we have heard, the arts have high levels of productivity, can be open and accessible, can deliver new skills, and are at the cutting edge of new technologies. The UK, partly because of the brilliant advocacy of the arts by my noble friend Lord Bragg, is a recognisable arts superpower. But just as decline is not inevitable, nor is success. The arts economy needs champions, risk-takers, well-shaped investment plans and a sense of national purpose, and it needs a Government—a Labour Government—who are confident, outward looking, invest in winners, help its arts exporters, and celebrate and value our successes.

Regeneration led by arts and culture has enormous transformative potential—just look at Dundee and the V&A’s impact—but we need support, a framework of renewal and a national plan for improving the seaside that embraces that potential.

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Llafur 12:57, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I declare my interests as chair of the National Centre for Creative Health—a charity independent of government —and as co-chair of the All-Party Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

Since the APPG published its report, Creative Health, in 2017, the term “creative health” has become increasingly familiar in the worlds of healthcare, social care and culture. It denotes creative activities and approaches that have benefits for our health and well-being. Activities can include visual and performing arts, crafts, literature, cooking, and creative activities in nature, such as gardening. Approaches may involve creative and innovative ways to provide health and care services in healthcare settings, but also in homes, in communities, at cultural institutions and at heritage sites. My noble friend Lord Bragg referred to the important research by Professor Daisy Fancourt of the World Health Organization, demonstrating the effectiveness of creative health.

Creative health may be used as a targeted intervention to support people living with specific mental and physical health conditions. It can be applied in people’s everyday lives, supporting general well-being, reducing isolation and loneliness, and, as a component of place and community-based approaches to population health, influencing the social determinants of health: the conditions in which people live, grow, work and age.

Some noble Lords may recall that, in our proceedings on the Health and Care Bill in 2022, when the Minister declined to set up a review of the efficacy and potential of creative health, I said that we would do it ourselves. The Creative Health Review report, sponsored by the NCCH and the APPG, and led by a very distinguished group of commissioners, was published in December. It describes the current state of creative health in England and makes recommendations to government and metropolitan mayors. Greater Manchester and London are already well ahead with creative health strategies for their city regions.

We call for a cross-governmental strategy to ensure that the power of creative health is fully harnessed to improve the health and well-being of all people across the life course, reduce inequalities, improve economic productivity, reduce pressure and demand on the NHS and support the personal resilience of staff in the NHS and social care.

If the potential benefits of creative health are to be realised, this is not just a matter for the DHSC and DCMS. We addressed recommendations to the Department for Education, DLUHC, the Ministry of Justice and other departments. We recommend, for example, better focus on creativity in school and using creativity to improve working conditions and the planning and design of the built environment. Strategy to realise the full potential of creative health needs to be driven by No. 10, with a new and sophisticated analysis of the economic benefits by the Treasury.

The report is available on the NCCH website. It presents evidence that creative health offers value for money, and that creative health interventions can lead to a reduction in healthcare usage. Mindsong’s “Breathe in Sing out” programme in Gloucestershire uses singing to support people with breathlessness resulting from COPD, asthma or anxiety. They have seen a statistically significant improvement in mental well-being, a 23% decline in A&E admissions and a 21% decline in GP appointments.

Some integrated care systems, including creative health hubs in West Yorkshire and Gloucestershire, have incorporated creative health into their joint forward plans and established supporting infrastructure and funding and commissioning models that facilitate the sustained development of community-based creative health initiatives. They have also collated consistent data that demonstrate the long-term impact on health outcomes and inequalities. The Government should encourage and support such approaches across the country. This requires a whole-system approach, endorsed and led by the Government, including health systems, local authorities, schools and the cultural and VCSE sectors.

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 1:02, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too congratulate the Government on deciding to ratify the UNESCO treaty on intangible cultural heritage. I thank Patricia Lovett, who has campaigned on this for so many years. I also applaud the Government’s stated commitment to negotiate the artist’s resale right with other countries, which is much appreciated. However, the triumvirate of crisis areas—arts funding, arts education and Brexit—is now causing firefighting on a daily basis in terms of cost, red tape and feasibility.

An artist’s work is primarily a contribution to society, which is why public funding is so important. Visual artists, for instance, should be properly remunerated for participation in public exhibitions on the kind of scale that, for example, Stuttgart has recently announced for artists there. Compare that progressive model with Suffolk and Nottingham, which are the latest councils to announce zero funding for the arts. There will be no exhibitions, let alone payment for artists, and theatres are now in danger of losing much of their total funding, as the excellent introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, made clear.

I read with horror this week of the possible plans for a fire sale of public assets to deal with local authorities’ financial woes, including buildings that might be used for arts and cultural purposes. This is so short-sighted. Councils have already lost many precious buildings that cannot be recovered. Local authorities ought to be part of the solution, rather than hindering the provision of, for example, our increasingly scarce music venues, which were mentioned earlier.

The Arts Council and local authorities are blamed, but ultimately the long-term cuts to central government funding are responsible. The key to arts funding lies in reversing the cuts to local authorities, particularly as through the “Let’s Create” strategy the overstretched Arts Council has taken on the kind of community projects that used to be funded by local authorities.

Brexit has yet to be properly addressed for the arts. While much can be done to ameliorate the situation, including renegotiating the deal the EU originally offered us, in the end the real solution must be to rejoin the single market. I say this particularly because many of the jobs that used to be on offer in Europe to performers as an accepted part of their career path are now advertised only for those with European passports. We will always remain at a disadvantage to our European neighbours in the creative industries until we are an equal member of that market again.

One specific thing the Government could do to help touring musicians would be to speed up and reduce the red tape on the issuing of A1 forms. I have an Oral Question on this on 12 February, to be answered by the Treasury, but I take the opportunity here to ask DCMS to impress on the Treasury the importance of addressing this concern.

The third main area of concern is arts education, with GCSE arts entries falling by a massive 41% since 2010. The key issue here is the accountability measures, with their built-in hierarchy of subjects. Look to the recent report by the Lords Education for 11-16 Year Olds Committee that recommends the EBacc be scrapped and Progress 8 reformed. One should bear in mind that the EBacc was set up to cement the then Education Secretary Michael Gove’s vision of a narrowly academic bias to school education, not the properly rounded education that all students deserve and that would most benefit society.

Photo of Lord Wood of Anfield Lord Wood of Anfield Llafur 1:06, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of the board of the Royal Court Theatre. When I was first appointed to your Lordships’ House, the first reaction of one of my oldest friends was: “Oh wow, that’s amazing. Does that mean you get to meet Melvyn Bragg?”. I cannot think of anyone else whose cultural appetite spans so widely, yet whose passion is always tethered to the values of incessant curiosity and intellectual rigour.

Another thing I associate with my noble friend Lord Bragg is the belief that art and culture should be available to everyone, whatever their background—a statement that sounds trite, perhaps, until you unpack what it says about a country and a culture when it stops being true. It is rare that someone steps out and says, “Art should only be for the privileged few”. But the problem is that that is precisely what happens in a country that lets the open, democratic contract at the heart of arts and culture slip away—a country, sadly, a bit like ours.

This is what happens when you see the arts not as a staple of what makes for a good life but as a luxury that can no longer be afforded—the “cherry on the cake” misnomer, as my noble friend Lord Bragg said. It leads to nearly £1 billion cut from local government spending on the arts in the last 15 years—a 30% real-terms cut in public funding for the arts since 2010. It is accompanied by a view that the arts are the plaything of the metropolitan elites. It tethers political grievance directly to our cultural institutions—to our media, whose integrity gets constantly questioned; and to our arts institutions, which are portrayed as enjoyed only by the champagne swillers. It leads to a Culture Minister who did not even know that Channel 4, one of her party’s boldest innovations, was not taxpayer funded.

In education, it continues with the prejudice that science is an investment but arts are a hobby—that arts and culture are a private good, not a public one. Arts courses at universities are repeatedly challenged for their economic value, their academic merit and even their political acceptability. Unsurprisingly, these courses then get whittled away. Cash-strapped and curriculum-overloaded schools become less able to offer supplementary arts and music options, or even core arts and music options, for their students. Over time, as many noble colleagues have said, the values of empathy, curiosity, sensitivity and openness become associated with elitism, privilege, weakness and even being a “snowflake”.

What is the consequence of this financial and cultural chipping away at the arts? It means that children’s access to arts is radically reduced, arts institution cuts that were temporary in bad times become the new normal, and thousands of freelance workers who depend on the arts, and who are not often mentioned, find their careers totally unsustainable.

It is no surprise, then, that in Britain today, people who grow up in professional families are four times more likely than those with working-class parents to be working in the creative industries. One of our leading actresses, Dame Helen Mirren, warns that acting is becoming the preserve of the rich. Thus, the prejudices of many of those who neglect and starve the arts are perversely vindicated.

The price we all pay for this is not just young people with less exposure to the arts, and who are less enriched by them; it is not just growing inequality in access to what should be a daily staple for everyone in our country. It is also that the quality of our democracy is undermined, because our arts are at the heart of freedom of expression, solidarity, debate and disagreement accompanied by civility.

Arts make us all better citizens, which is why we all need access, continued exposure and participation in the arts. More than anything else, this is why, whatever happens politically in the decade ahead, we must all, whatever our party and our preferences, call time on the neglect, austerity, politicisation and prejudice towards our arts that I fear has become part of daily life in the past decade.

Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Ceidwadwyr 1:10, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing it. As a general point, I emphasise that the arts/creative industries sector provides us with an important ingredient of soft power internationally. The status and recognition of the UK and its economy is based on a mixture of our history, the importance of the English language, our education system and the BBC, but it is enhanced by the role of the arts, whether music, dance, theatre or anything else that can claim inclusion in the definition. In this, the British Council has an important role, which I believe could and should be extended.

In the short time available, I will concentrate my remarks on dance and classical ballet, in particular. As a former co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Dance Group, a position now enjoyed by my noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie, I can point to the importance of the role of dance in education, health, well-being, discipline and international relations as well as in its sheer beauty and entertainment value. In recognising the importance of excellence and high standards in performance, a perhaps less-known institution, the Royal Academy of Dance, plays a vital role. Here I must declare an interest as a former governor of the RAD, which teaches the teachers of ballet, provides the syllabus and examination system and maintains standards. It is recognised for this throughout the world. Indeed, I have come across RAD examiners working away in South Africa and New Zealand and even in El Salvador.

In terms of culture, the Royal Ballet has, of course, a leading role. Again, I should declare an interest as a former governor in the days when my late friend Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover was the chairman. I was also privileged to attend the Royal Ballet School at the ripe old age of 10, so long ago that it was still known as the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. The Royal Ballet, at its home in the Royal Opera House, represents a centre of excellence renowned throughout the world and is a huge attraction for tourists and British balletomanes alike. In talking about the Royal Ballet, let us not forget the Birmingham Royal Ballet under the brilliant artistic directorship of Carlos Acosta and in the safe hands of its CEO, Caroline Miller. The BRB delights audiences at its home base in Birmingham, but also brings joy and pleasure to the citizens of Southampton, Bristol, Plymouth, Sunderland, Salford and elsewhere in its capacity as a touring company. We are fortunate in other companies, such as the English National Ballet and the Northern Ballet, to name but two which are also world class. All are struggling with budgetary restrictions.

If I may raise a specific question for my noble friend, given the funding cuts we have been hearing about, the higher rate of theatre tax relief introduced in 2022 has provided a lifeline for theatre, opera and ballet. It has made it possible to invest in various productions, fostered innovations and supported employment for actors, dancers, designers, producers and stage crew who would otherwise be out of work. To take one example from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, it supported the highly innovative “Black Sabbath - The Ballet”, which last year thrilled sold-out audiences across the country, many of whom had never seen ballet before. The current rate of tax relief is due to end in 2025. Could it be extended? Such a move would be cheered across the performing arts sectors. Can my noble friend give me hope?

Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Non-affiliated 1:14, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, we get to the point in the debate where we defy the rules of “Just a Minute” and have hesitation and repetition. However, I make no excuses for congratulating my noble friend and national treasure Lord Bragg on his lifelong commitment to the arts and on ensuring this debate. I refer to my register of interests. I spent 40 years as an actor before entering the theatre of politics, and I know full well what my noble friends Lord Bassam and Lord Rooker said about seaside and rural theatres. Indeed, I have performed the length and breadth of the country, sometimes in theatres that wished I had not.

On a serious point, I believe that our lack of a comprehensive arts policy will fail a generation in this country. Therefore, my focus will be on access to the arts and the creative industries in all their aspects through education at primary, secondary and tertiary level and on physical access to experience the arts in all their interconnected forms. I am indebted to the Lords Library, in particular to Nicola Newson, for the detailed research I requested and to the briefings I received from Equity.

My premise is that we have no effective joined-up, cross-departmental approach to one of our most successful industries. I would go so far as to revisit the concept of DCMS and instead make a case for education, arts, science and innovation. I believe that without cross-departmental strategies, young people, especially from working class and ethnic minority backgrounds and people with disabilities, will be denied crucial, life-changing opportunities without regular access to the arts, arts education and the careers therein.

It is not only young people who benefit; it is cross-generational. I have witnessed at first hand the impact of drama and art within the prison system in opening up minds and helping people to face the challenge of reading and writing and expressing oneself and the deep and often damaging frustration that comes when people are unable to express themselves. The arts have the power to bring imagination to life and allow and encourage individuals to explore new, unimagined opportunities. The arts are all interconnected. Television soap opera, music, television drama and theatre open audiences to the world around them and challenge misconception and misinformation while all the time being engaging and entertaining and in fact, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, bringing about a monumental change for justice, as we witnessed with “Mr Bates vs the Post Office” and, for those of us old enough to remember, the social justice that followed “Cathy Come Home”.

However, we are failing young people, as witnessed by the findings of a report by A New Direction, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes creative opportunities for children and young people. Its report The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future was published in March 2023, and it still needs to be fully addressed by the Government. We must ensure that there is greater time to study and explore music, drama, design, dance, video games, films and audio within our schools and in hubs outside, especially for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. We must keep our theatres, music venues and libraries open. They are not luxuries; they make economic sense, and they speak of the kind of civilised, open country that we are or could become.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 1:19, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the powerful contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and join the universal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this debate and introducing it so powerfully. It is worth focusing on his key message that the arts feed us. They are to our physical, emotional and intellectual benefit. However, rather than cake, we should look at them as bread—one of the staffs of life.

I shall focus on the importance of that staff being available to all communities, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans in noting the near collapse of provision in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, particularly in opportunities for people to participate in the arts. For the Green Party, that must be the foundation of arts policy: focusing not on what people purchase—Hollywood movies or blockbuster exhibitions —but on what they participate in or jointly create. We know that that is of great public interest, in the best sense.

To take an example that noble Lords may be aware of, there is currently a giant furore around Suffolk County Council’s decision to deliver a 100% cut to core arts funding. This has even penetrated the London-centric mainstream media bubble. We have to acknowledge the long-term impact of more than a decade of government austerity on local government—and I declare my position as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. The foundational blame lies in Westminster. But the local decision is still indefensible and has since, to a degree, been reversed, although the outcome is yet to be finalised. However, a partial climbdown by the county council leaves hugely valued local institutions, such as DanceEast and the New Wolsey Theatre, without the kind of certainty needed to securely continue to deliver hugely valued community services. The mother of 15 year-old Jack, who has autism, told Channel 4 how much a weekly drama class had brought him out of his shell. “I absolutely love them”, Jack told Channel 4’s reporter.

Noble Lords will be aware that I work across many issues in your Lordships’ House. In health debates, we often hear that the Government understand and value the increasing contribution to health of social prescribing, which enables people to access dance, theatre and other creative arts as a way of caring for them and improving their health and lives. Yet Ipswich, where one-third of children live in poverty, faces a collapse of such provision, which can only put more costs on to our struggling NHS and take away that essential food to set children up for a healthy life.

Finally, I step away from my main focus to comment on the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, who is not currently in his place, and disagree in the strongest terms with him about the relationship between BP and the British Museum. As the campaign group Culture Unstained said, this is “completely indefensible”. Greenwashing and artwashing do not clean the hands of companies such as BP, but they do damage the reputation, the standing and the world’s view of institutions that enable that effort at greenwashing.

To comment further on the noble Lord embrace of philanthropy, relying on philanthropy as a foundation to keep our institutions going means that a tiny number of people get a big say in the direction of those institutions—the subjects they tackle and the kind of work they support. How much better it would be to ensure that big companies and rich individuals pay their taxes and we all democratically decide how to allocate the funding. If we want arts that embrace and show the way to change, rather than simply seek to reinforce the status quo, we need democratically decided funding for them.

Photo of Viscount Chandos Viscount Chandos Llafur 1:23, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I join noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this debate, his powerful introduction and, as so well expressed by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, his exceptional contribution to this country’s cultural and artistic life.

I had the privilege of introducing a debate on a similar subject a year or so ago. Depressingly but unsurprisingly, little has changed for the better since. The real reduction in public funding for the arts has continued to squeeze all institutions while the Arts Council stumbles on in its attempt to distribute that inadequate funding in the context of admittedly incoherent directions from the Government. All the while and against the odds, artists of all disciplines in this country daily create miracles of inspired excellence. So, are we wasting our breath today? I was encouraged last night when talking to the chair of one of the most important artistic institutions in the country, from outside London. He welcomed our debate, saying that: “Nobody else advocate for the arts—least of all the Arts Council”.

I declare my interest in the register as a vice-chair of LAMDA. I strongly endorse the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, and every other speaker about the vital importance of the arts, directly and indirectly, to our lives. I will make two brief points.

The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, highlighted the huge divergence in the teaching of music and the performing arts in the state and independent school sectors. I see this vividly through the more than 120,000 drama exams conducted by LAMDA worldwide every year. While LAMDA, as a world-leading drama school, already draws its students from a broadly representative cross-section of society and works hard to improve that further, its exams are overwhelmingly taken by students from independent schools—a vivid but depressing illustration of the rundown of arts teaching in state schools. My right honourable friend Sir Keir Starmer’s commitment to the Labour Party promoting oracy through state schools is a light at the not-too-distant end of the tunnel.

I hope that the Minister will not again insult the intelligence of your Lordships in winding up by presenting small nominal increases in funding for the arts and shrugging off the savage inflationary cost increases suffered by all arts institutions. Since the start of the Conservative and Conservative-led Governments, public funding has been cut by over 30% in real terms.

A year ago, I suggested that the additionality required for funding from the lottery might be relaxed and that the doubling of distributions to good causes promised by the new lottery franchisee could be used to compensate in part for the real-terms reduction in the Arts Council grant in aid. By coincidence, today is the first day of the new lottery franchise, yet the new franchisee has already talked about struggling to match previous years’ distribution and a delay in any increase. Does the Minister agree that the award of the franchise to Allwyn by the Gambling Commission appears to have been based on a false prospectus? If, as is now predicted, lottery funding for the arts and other good causes does not meet the original projections on which the franchise was awarded, will the Government make up the difference through an increase in the grant in aid?

Photo of Lord Browne of Madingley Lord Browne of Madingley Crossbench 1:28, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this debate. I refer the House to my interests as set out in the register, specifically my chairmanship of the Courtauld Institute, my co-chairmanship of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology and my membership of the board of the Royal Opera House. I will make four short points.

First, the arts do not exist in isolation. Rather, they are a prism through which everything else in our world can be viewed. That means that they must feature much more prominently in education and outreach programmes. Successful examples can be found and built on—for example, at the Royal Opera House and the Courtauld Institute, which remains faithful to its founder’s vision of art for all.

Secondly, the arts lift our eyes up, out of our day-to-day preoccupations, towards the broader human condition. For many years, I have been a patron of Paintings in Hospitals, a charity which loans artworks to health and social care organisations, where they are displayed, reducing anxiety and therapeutically benefiting patients, staff and visitors. I will never forget, when I served as chairman of the Donmar Warehouse, speaking to a group of young people who had been invited to the all-women performance of selected works by Shakespeare in a warehouse near King’s Cross. They had never experienced the power of Shakespearean verse before and they found that it spoke to them in a commanding yet fresh way about their own lives and the lives of those around them. We must do much more to open the arts to new audiences, widening access and, in the case of visual arts, expanding public display.

Thirdly, we should remember that the arts always give more than they take. The question of public funding should always be tested against the backdrop of the significant value that the arts add to the UK economy—approximately £50 billion gross, a figure similar to that of the food and beverage service sector. This must be recognised, with commensurate levels of public finance, but more philanthropy must be encouraged. For example, there must be scope for additional tax relief for smaller donations—commonly called individual giving—and for the lifetime donation of works of art, which should be incentivised and made much more tax efficient without a limit on total value. We should be recognising and encouraging generosity, not stifling it.

Fourthly, the arts are instrumental in creating our future. The research and development growth potential of the world-class creative industries is enormous. Yet they are often overlooked for investment. In the autumn, the Council for Science and Technology made a series of recommendations on how further to incentivise R&D activity that will have benefits across the arts, the creative economy and beyond. We called for increased levels of public finance, further tax relief opportunities, renewed efforts to value and digitise our cultural assets, and greater copyright protections for creative content in the face of AI deployment. We look forward to the Government’s full response.

I am a firm believer in and a supporter of the arts in this country, but those of us who play an active role know that we cannot take their continued contribution for granted. The benefits that they bring to individuals, to society and to the economy of today and of the future must not be overlooked, even in challenging economic times.

Photo of Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Llafur 1:32, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, this the view from street level of someone who has never chaired very much or run huge organisations.

The late, revered Michael Parkinson once declared that of all the interviews he had done, his favourite was the one he did with Jacob Bronowski. Most of us will remember Jacob Bronowski’s ground-breaking television series “The Ascent of Man”, which was broadcast almost exactly 50 years ago. Here was a scientist of the first order who was marinated in the arts. Human values, a fascination with the work of William Blake, a writer of poetry himself and such an engaging personality—what a cocktail of qualities he possessed. He championed the idea that the best science was simply the material and physical outworking of deeply implanted human instincts. The arts were as important to him as his science.

Moving from then to now, Jamie Brownhill is the headmaster of the Central Foundation Boys’ School, a magnificent inner-city comprehensive in Islington. I was involved in its governance for 20 years, 10 of them as chairman of its trustees, but that is as grand as it gets. Ask Jamie about the history of his school and he will be bound to tell you how Jacob Bronowski is its most admired former pupil. This recognises the important place that Bronowski plays in the school’s past, but it is equally an indication of the spirit of the man still hovering over a community of learning which, for all the problems in our national education referred to by previous speakers, continues to live out the ideals of its former pupil.

I visited an exhibition of paintings done by the school’s pupils and put on by the Wellcome Foundation. I sat proud as punch at a concert in the Guildhall, where a range of musical skills were on display. Our trustees kept agreeing to buy pianos for rehearsal rooms and music lessons, and the drama put on by the pupils was wonderful. How can I ever forget the way that a 17 year-old Macbeth, just after stabbing the king, with the same facility of utterance that he might have shown in wiping his hands after consuming a burger at McDonald’s, lamented:

“No, this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine”?

The arts must surely be at the very core of our curriculum so that one generation after another can bring their creative, cultural, emotional and imaginative selves into the mix of their developing minds. It is vital for the well-being of society, as others have said, and for building the kind of world that we all want to live in. Again and again, Jacob Bronowski made reference in his great work to poets, musicians, philosophers, artists and dramatists. He ended one of his chapters with a favourite quatrain of mine from William Blake. He wanted people to be able:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”— or as I, in a pathetic contemporary version, might have it:

“To build a culture that is steeped in the arts

Where STEM plus A equals STEAM

Where the whole is more than the sum of its parts

And life rich beyond our wildest dreams”.

I salute my noble friend, a true Companion of Honour, and thank him for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject today.

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:36, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, on securing this important debate and on his excellent and powerful introduction. We have heard some very knowledgeable contributions today. Mine is very different.

Small children can express themselves through art with paper and crayons. A roll of lining paper and a pot of felt-tip pens and they are away. Do not ask, “What is it?” but try, “Tell me about your picture”. Have at least one contribution pinned up around the home somewhere. Plasticine and FIMO are also great starting tools to encourage children. If talent is there, nurture, develop and encourage it. Art therapy and the use of drawing is often used in cases of children’s bereavement or abuse, to help them express what they are feeling and to say what happened when they do not have the words to do so.

The digital age and the computer have moved the pace on significantly towards graphic design. Advertisements and packaging are there to sell us something that we did not know we needed or wanted, but this all helps the economy. The cultural aspect of the creative industries is unquestionable. From deciphering the contributions of a four year-old to standing in front of a work of art from a grand master, our hearts and spirits are lifted, making us smile and sometimes cry. Art improves our mental health, keeping us going and economically active.

Whether inside or outside, art has a part to play in the economy. We flock to see a play in a theatre; we save up to visit the Royal Opera House to see ballet, which is so transporting, or an opera, which is so dramatic; we visit galleries, which are calming and thought-provoking. A visit to the cinema gives a much better experience than viewing on the small screen at home, more convenient though this may be for many. Music calms the troubled soul and there is nothing that comes close to the experience of a live concert.

I return now to the younger generation, the classroom and the national curriculum, which other noble Lords have referred to. Art is squeezed out. Visits by theatre groups to schools lift the children out of their routine and give them a different aspect on life. Playing an instrument gives a great sense of achievement. Some art forms are more squeezed than others: music, for instance. Drama, acting and painting get a reasonable allocation of time. Ballet tends to be after school and at weekends. Sculpture is not so good. For ceramics or craft pottery, it is reasonable, but if you might be the next Grayson Perry someone will need to keep a foot in the door for you.

Art foundation courses give limited time to various art forms. Two weeks for clay is insufficient to discover if it might be your medium. All art forms need space on curriculums at all education stages to ensure they survive. There would undoubtedly be an effect on the economy from their disappearance, but the effect on the mental health of us all would be very significant if our art choices were restricted and some forms disappeared altogether.

Photo of Baroness Bakewell Baroness Bakewell Llafur 1:40, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I thank my fellow Peer and noble friend Lord Bragg for introducing this debate. He is not in the Chamber at the moment; I think he is out in the Lobby being interviewed for television. He cannot spread the message too far and too fast. I support his proposition that the economy of this country and the well-being of its people benefit both in money and in spiritual well-being from the flourishing of the arts. As the BBC’s arts correspondent for 10 years, I documented week by week the talent and success, reputational and financial, of our outstanding arts community. I will be repeating a lot that has already been said, but repetition shows only how universally these important views are held.

State funding since the war by central and local government has underpinned much of our success and it continues to be subject to the vagaries of political volatility. That is a word we should not need to use. Before that, I should mention the consistent donations made by private individuals and families in the UK. The Blavatniks, the Ruddocks, the Rausings and the Sainsburys, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Browne, who has just spoken, are some of the most generous but, taking the broader picture, the UK arts depend on the state as both central and local government.

Arguments in their favour are consistent and enduring. At the risk of repetition, here are some of them. The arts make money. They employ some 2.46 million people and train generations to follow. The UK has some 275 arts colleges and arts courses at further education institutions. Many of their talents go on to enjoy international reputations in the world’s galleries and museums. There is soft power: the range of Britain’s writers and its flourishing publishing industry, as we have already heard, support our reputation in universities and in cultures around the world. Our musicians and composers—a number of them have seats in this House—and the popular music industry more than hold their own in concert halls and on stages. Our established artists, who trained at any one of our 275 arts colleges, command huge rewards on the booming UK arts market, currently worth £9.7 billion. For example, the paintings of the Scottish artist Peter Doig, who studied at Central Saint Martins and Chelsea, currently command prices towards £30 million per painting at auction.

Then there are the personal and social benefits, which your Lordships have already heard spoken of several times. Millions of people visit hundreds of the UK’s museums and art galleries. Post the pandemic, theatregoers are now back to a number of around 16 million. More recently, research at Exeter University found that playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir can promote better memory skills and hence brain health in older age. Music is being used to help those with dementia.

The House has already heard and will hear more arguments and examples of how the arts benefit the UK economy, its institutions, its communities and its individuals. The arts are not a fringe activity for randomly filling in our leisure hours. Although they may do that for us individually, they are an ongoing conversation that this culture has within itself. The Government must take notice of that conversation, back it and support it. How that culture comes to define its identity and nourish the lives and happiness of all who live here depend on the arts, and the arts depend on the Government.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Ceidwadwyr 1:45, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, who has done so much for the arts over such a long period of time; and equally, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for securing this debate. Again, he is a national treasure, a hero and a legend of our arts in this country. In doing so, I declare my interest as set out in the register as a member of the board at Channel 4. The arts excite, entertain, amuse, intrigue, shock and, yes, offend us, and all to the good. I will talk briefly about the arts’ potential to make the difference—not a difference but the difference—and to cause change.

I am reminded of a programme that the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, made decades ago, which affected me then and is still seared into my consciousness. It did not have a big blockbuster budget; it was not filmed on location; it was across the way, in a non-dressed empty studio, with two cameras and two chairs. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, was on one chair and Dennis Potter, his life fading from him, was on the other, with a morphine flask in his hand. In that moment, with no set or and no need for graphics or any other staging, two humans discussed the power of art to change, transform and make the difference.

I have tried to take that essence into some of the things I have been fortunate enough to be involved in. When I led the team that planned and delivered the London 2012 Paralympic Games, I was absolutely seized of the necessity to drive the artistic as well as the sporting—not least because, for decades in this country, probably up to that point, sport and art had been put in some pathetic opposition where, if you funded one, you could not have the other. Like oil and water: never the twain shall meet. What nonsense. I hope that, in our small way, in 2012, we helped drive that point home, so that they would never be seen by any future Government as opposing forces.

We put on Unlimited, the largest deaf and disabled arts programme ever staged on these shores. There were great shows and exhibitions, with stand-up comedians and performers, many of whom then led or were part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics—so perfectly put together by its directors, the sensational Jenny Sealey and Brad Hemmings. Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” ran right through the ceremony, with modern music and the national anthem—signed as well as sung. In the midst of all of that, Professor Stephen Hawking talked about possibilities not just beyond ourselves but beyond our universe. What gravity-defying, attitude-altering and opportunity-creating art and sport it was—all of it inclusive by design and accessible for each and every person who experienced it.

This leads to my one question for my noble friend the Minister, of which I gave him prior notice. How many of our cultural institutions—our museums and galleries—currently in receipt of National Lottery and/or grant in aid funding are not accessible? They are putting on inaccessible exhibitions and shows, for the want of simple accessible services such as audio description. It does not make a difference; it makes the difference between somebody being able to experience that art or exhibition or being effectively and completely shut out. As I am talking about making the difference, I ask not only how many institutions are currently putting on inaccessible shows but what my noble friend will commit the Government to doing to put an end to this.

The arts, accessible for all, is what we should all be aiming for. Accessible for all or not at all; “accessible for all” is my clarion call.

Photo of Lord Murphy of Torfaen Lord Murphy of Torfaen Llafur 1:50, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in what has been a great debate. I particularly welcome my noble friend Lord Bragg’s powerful and penetratingly relevant speech on the arts today. He referred, quite rightly, to the chaos caused by the former Culture Secretary and Arts Council England to the English National Opera.

I will refer to opera outside London, which has equally been affected by the decision of the Arts Council to reduce funding. The Arts Council was given 9% more funding in the last settlement but has cut opera by 22%. The effect in England and Wales, outside London, is on touring opera. My noble friend Lord Rooker referred to Mid Wales Opera and the work that it does. I want to refer to just three companies, because that is all we have, in England and Wales which deal with touring opera: Glyndebourne, Opera North and—inevitably—the Welsh National Opera. Despite its name, the Welsh National Opera does a great deal of work in England and a big part of its funding comes from the English funding council as well as the Arts Council of Wales. As a consequence of those cuts, we have seen cuts in performances.

On the touring aspect of opera, those three companies go to 13 cities in England, including Plymouth, Hull, Newcastle, Bristol, Southampton, Birmingham, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Canterbury, Nottingham, Liverpool and Manchester. In all of those cities, we have now seen a reduction in performances. The year before last there were 146 performances, but now there are 87; 10 years ago, there were 250 performances throughout England and Wales outside London. The figures speak for themselves. Take two continental European countries as a comparison: in Germany, there are 78 companies, and in France, there are 17 companies. You can go through all the countries in Europe, and the Scandinavian countries, and find that they serve their people better in opera than we do.

If we make opera less accessible, with performances reduced and production ceasing in various parts of the country, we will make it elitist. But it should not be; it should be for everybody. As a consequence of that decision by Arts Council England, we are in dire trouble, and touring opera in England and Wales now faces a crisis. It is the opposite of levelling up.

I hope that the Minister will refer to my remarks in his wind-up. I ask him two things. First, I ask him to liaise with his counterpart in the Welsh Government to ensure that the Welsh National Opera receives proper funding. Secondly, before Arts Council England’s next funding round—I think it is in three years—and to save opera in our country, I ask for this crisis to be dealt with directly and not left in the hands of Arts Council England, which is not doing opera any good at all.

Photo of Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Non-affiliated 1:54, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I echo the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, on the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, to all our individual experiences—recalling, for example, his interview with Dennis Potter. I think everyone in the Chamber can probably recall an experience where he made a real difference.

I urge noble Lords to reach in their pockets—they may still find some coins there. Yes, we do still use coins. When you hold a coin in your hand, you have a visible example of how the arts, design and innovative production methods contribute to the economy and reflect our society. Tokens that represent a value and underpin the assets of a nation, and that display the effigy of the sovereign, have a long history. In this country, the Royal Mint has not only a proud past but a promising future. This may be a fitting moment to declare an interest: I chair the Royal Mint’s advisory committee on coins and medals, as well as being president of the Birmingham Bach Choir—so there is a resonance of music.

The advisory council includes practising artists and designers, and we make suggestions on lettering, heraldry, images and themes. Together with the in-house designers and their team, we aim to improve the design standards of our nation’s coins and medals. The next time Members handle a coin, they may have one that has the new effigy of King Charles III. The effigy was designed by Martin Jennings and, even if you have not seen the coins yet, you have probably come across one of his public sculptures: John Betjeman—incidentally, he was a previous member of the Royal Mint’s advisory committee—at St Pancras station, George Orwell at Broadcasting House, or the “Women of Steel” at Barker’s Pool in Sheffield.

The Royal Mint also encourages young talent. One-third of its design team is under 30. One of the earliest coins celebrating the King’s Coronation—a 50p coin—was designed by Natasha Jenkins, one of the local designers. There are several initiatives to support craft skills and encourage the design and manufacture of the Royal Mint’s jewellery range, which will be made in Britain.

The first definitive set of coins of King Charles’ reign was issued towards the end of last year. The coins feature flora and fauna, celebrating the King’s passion for sustainability and love of the natural world. The £2 coin has floral emblems; the £1 coin has an industrious honeybee; the 50p has an Atlantic salmon; the 20p has a puffin; the 10p has the capercaillie, a woodland grouse; the 5p has an oak tree; the 2p has a red squirrel, so it was helpful that it was a copper coin, making it clear that we were celebrating the red, not the grey, squirrel; and the 1p has a dormouse.

The Royal Mint is a significant direct employer in Wales. It supports its local area and the Welsh tourist industry through its award-winning visitor attraction, the Royal Mint Experience. But the main thing I stress is that it promotes, protects and champions British craftsmanship and works with the Heritage Crafts Association, issuing bursaries for precious metal workers, for example. It is a major contributor to exports, producing over a billion pieces for 22 countries.

The Royal Mint’s success is based—this is the point about the arts—on the simple fact of excellent designs, high-quality craftsmanship, innovative manufacturing and the use of new technologies. The Royal Mint expects that it will be the first world pioneer in green technology, which recovers gold from discarded electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops on an industrial scale.

I wanted to take part today simply because we should not overlook the importance of making things and valuing those things. When they are artistic, we should appreciate them.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Llafur 2:00, 1 Chwefror 2024

It was good to see the Minister on his first visit to Liverpool in November last year. I was surprised to hear it was his first visit to Britain’s premier city.

Noble Lords:


Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Llafur

I am sure he will have been thrilled to find such a fine, vibrant city, with deep cultural and artistic traditions that have given rise to a business community of talent across all the arts. The message from Liverpool is that you do not need to go to London to experience artistic excellence. Liverpool is set on reversing the gravitational pull to the south.

However, let us not forget the need for investment in infrastructure: the failing historic buildings still need central funding. The port city and its maritime industry were revolutionised through the creation of the Albert Dock and, after falling into dereliction, the area was transformed into a renowned cultural destination that has become a model of successful regeneration. But the fabric is now outdated. Liverpool Museums boasts National Museum Liverpool on the waterfront, the Walker Art Gallery, World Museum, the Lady Lever and the Williamson on the Wirral, along with Tate Liverpool. These are homes of national art collections as well as modern and contemporary art in the north. Liverpool was recently voted the seventh best city of the world and tourism accounts for roughly 48% of the local economy, with a majority of visitors citing the dock and the museums there as the main reasons to visit. But cost rises present huge challenges: wage rises are 14% and energy bills have increased by 100%, while DCMS grants have grown by 4%.

However, great things are happening. Liverpool is committed to its waterfront transformation project. Both the Tate and National Museums Liverpool have received £10 million each of levelling-up funding. Yesterday, the Wolfson Foundation announced a fantastic £1.25 million award for the transformation of Tate Liverpool. But certainty is certainly needed for the waterfront project. From the Minister’s visit in November, can he say how his department is assessing financial support for the development of the International Slavery Museum and the Maritime Museum of National Museums Liverpool? Here I want to mention the bees project, which is a very innovative and immersive educational project outlining the importance of conservation and pollination that needs funding certainty, looking naturally to DCMS and Defra to contribute.

I want to mention the Liverpool Film Studio, rising from the regeneration of the iconic Littlewoods Edge Lane building. It is the Minister able to encourage this in any way as the new home for film in the north?

Finally, I mention the John Moores modern art prize at the Walker, the longest running art prize open to all painters, trained and untrained, that has brought prominence to professional and emerging talent alike. I declare my interest as a trustee of this charity. Being at the leading edge, the show demonstrates the breadth of work across the UK in contemporary painting. I was glad that my noble friend Lady Bakewell mentioned Peter Doig, who was a past winner of the prize in his earlier years. All this provides excellence, along with the musical tradition of the Philharmonic and the Mersey sound, revolutionised in the hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest last year in place of Ukraine. This all provides evidence of the GVA to local enterprises through the promotion of the arts, and I wish the noble Lord many more happy visits to Liverpool.

Photo of Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 2:04, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg—I hope I can say my noble friend Lord Bragg—for this debate. I draw attention to my interests as declared in the register.

All who have spoken, led so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, have expressed a clear sense of the true value of arts and culture, and of the creative industries they support. What is needed, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said, is to ensure that this value is properly woven into government policy, and it is certainly not at the moment. The funding system for the arts is broken at central, local and Arts Council levels. Central Treasury funding for culture has seen a 40% reduction since 2008. Alongside this, local authorities have also been subject to a 40% real-terms reduction which means, due to the necessary prioritising of statutory responsibilities, that cuts have fallen disproportionately on arts organisations.

Supporting local culture is not a cost; it is an investment. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, I have jettisoned the figures I was going to express as he said that they were not to be listened to. Then there are the less tangible and less measurable contributions, as mentioned by my noble friends Lady Miller and Lady Bakewell. Engaging in culture enhances individuals’ lives, providing young people with opportunities to channel their creativity and energy. It combats loneliness and both physical and mental health issues, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, so eloquently put it.

Many people need statutory services because they have been deprived of what makes them feel good, and of what the arts can provide. Cutting funding for the arts is a false economy, in every sense of the word. I cannot make a speech about the arts without mentioning Peter Bazalgette, the former chair of the Arts Council, who said:

“The arts create empathetic citizens, putting us through storytelling in the shoes of others, and is society’s glue, urging us to positive action”.

Witness “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, mentioned.

I am a trustee of the Lowry in Salford, a prime example of the important contribution that local culture makes to a community. Not so long ago, the Salford Quays was a place of derelict, disused docks. Now it is a thriving, creative hub. What was behind this regeneration? It was an artist who inspired a gallery, and a performing arts centre with a great building and with a mission to involve, include and inspire the local community. Most importantly, the city council had the foresight and commitment to support this vision. Over the years, the Lowry has forged almost 30 community partnerships across Salford and Greater Manchester, and has contributed a deep, diverse and long-lasting impact on local lives through educational, volunteering and community-engagement programmes. Will the Minister please take note of the excellent LGA report Cornerstones of Culture, which recommends a return to local decision-making when shaping cultural provision?

The point about the importance of listening to local government and local institutions is exemplified by what happened in the latest Arts Council funding round. The Arts Council, set up by John Maynard Keynes—a very good Liberal and a very good economist—had, as its first priority, that while money for the arts came from the public purse, the independence of artists and arts organisations would be protected at all costs. As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, so forcefully explained, this arm’s-length principle was destroyed by this Government when ACE was issued a directive by a recent Secretary of State to redistribute funding from London to the regions, as a part of the Government’s agenda for levelling up.

Let us go back to the Lowry. The National Theatre’s commitment to touring and the Lowry’s role as its home venue in the north-west have meant that local audiences have experienced some of the most celebrated theatre productions of the last 20 years. But what is happening now? Exactly what those who run provincial arts centres predicted. Deprived of resources, our national arts organisations have got rid of their touring commitments, so they will inevitably become more entrenched in their London bases. The result could not be further away from levelling up. Does the Minister not agree that it is essential we return to the arm’s-length principle?

As so many noble Lords have said, the arts must be returned to centre stage in our education system. STEM, not STEAM, has been the Conservative mantra, and as the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Wood, said, the Government persist in supporting the EBacc, ignoring the fact that there should not be a choice between arts and science. Interestingly, the DfE recently announced that James Dyson has made a £6 million donation to build a science, technology, engineering and arts centre in a school in Wiltshire. Note the inclusion of arts—he is supporting STEAM. It is curious that in celebrating this in her press release, the Secretary of State welcomes only that it is STEM. James Dyson was educated at the Royal College of Art before becoming one of our most successful inventors, success that lies in the fusion of his creative and technological skills.

To pick up on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, made about the Industrial Revolution, it was this very fusion that the Victorians understood. They had a Science and Art Department. I have just learned about Sir Humphry Davy, one of the most extraordinary scientific minds of that time, who discovered nine elements of the periodic table and was a pioneer in the field of electrolysis but also a poet. In his fascinating notebooks, his poetry and scientific explorations are all muddled together, influencing each other. He lived in a time when there was no dividing line between the arts and science. There still should not be. Does the Minister agree? On which point, will he let us know when the cultural education plan, the panel on which is chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, will be published, and will it have financial backing?

On the matter of skills, the creative industries are a world of freelancers, and in some sectors this is as high as 80%. However, the UK’s tax and social security framework is not set up to effectively support freelancers, which means that an alarming number of people are leaving the sector. It exacerbates inequalities in the industry, and in particular the loss of diverse talent. Does the Minister agree that what is needed is a freelance commissioner, as recommended by the Creative Diversity APPG, of which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and I are both members?

Finally, there is the calamitous consequence of Brexit, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Garden and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. There have been issues with complicated paperwork, carnets, cabotage—new words—visas, and costs, costs, costs; music touring has gone up by 30% to 40%, and theatre by an average of 20%. Visual artists—not often heard—are also experiencing problems, as is fashion. It is all the same story: so much red tape involved in moving goods, in sales and exhibitions, and in the freedom of movement of people. Does the Minister agree with the noble Lord, Lord Frost, our chief Brexit negotiator, that his trade deal

“failed touring musicians and other artists by inflicting punishing costs and red tape”?

Like the noble Lords, Lord Bragg and Lord Kinnock, I despair of this Government, although not of the Minister. Whoever the next Government are, they need to be as bold as Keynes was in 1946 with the Arts Council; as bold as Jennie Lee in 1964, the first Minister for the Arts; as bold as John Major in 1992 with the Department of National Heritage and the first Cabinet post for an Arts Minister; and as bold as Chris Smith—now the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury—in 1997, with free museums and galleries. They need to stand up for the arts and culture, for all the reasons the many speakers in this debate have mentioned. We need joined-up education and skills development, the reopening of negotiations with the EU, and joined-up funding and a return to the arm’s-length principle.

John Maynard Keynes said:

“the work of the artist in all its aspects is, of its nature, individual and free, undisciplined, unregimented, uncontrolled … But" the artist

"leads the rest of us into fresh pastures and teaches us to love and to enjoy what we often begin by rejecting, enlarging our sensibility and purifying our instincts”.

Long may the creative industry that is the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, lead us in debates such as this.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Devolved Issues) 2:14, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Bragg, first for his choice of subject today, secondly for his excellent introduction, and thirdly for inspiring what has been a truly fantastic debate from across the whole House.

I suspect that his career is not one that he ever envisaged as he was growing up. We all remember the “South Bank Show”, but when he joined your Lordships’ House in 1998 it was felt that there could be a conflict of interest so he should be sidelined into a quieter radio slot, with a new programme called “In Our Time”. That worked, did it not? It is a wonderful programme, delightfully curious about everything and anything and, however intellectual the subject, it is never pretentious or boring—just like him. He is not pretentious and boring, I hasten to add. For more than 1,000 episodes, it has gently educated through conversation on the widest range of subjects.

The strength of this debate has been its depth, its breadth and the range of cultural issues that we have debated. I have to confess that I have never enjoyed opera, but that is despite the best efforts of my comprehensive school, which gave us the opportunity to experience the arts, and I retain a love of music, drama, theatre and literature. It was a bit harsh that when I became the culture Minister in Northern Ireland, the Irish Times wrote—and I paraphrase only gently—“What hope was there when her favourite programme was ‘Coronation Street’?”.

This debate is everything I thought it could be, covering everything from music to theatre, TV and film to museums, libraries and galleries, books, poetry, dance and drama. The ability to give expression to emotions, to educate and inform and to reach beyond superficial divisions allows us to unite and bring communities together. Never to be underestimated, these industries give us pleasure and support our well-being.

Also, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh said, they bring power to move us. Why was it that, after years of campaigning—including Questions and speeches in Parliament, some brilliant journalism and an excellent BBC documentary—it took an ITV drama about the Post Office scandal to capture the imagination of the public and force action in a way that the totally committed efforts of others had not? Partly, it was because of the brilliant writing, production and acting. It made us invest our emotions in those characters. We empathised, we were outraged, it gave us insight and it led to action. It was not for the first time, but it was on an extraordinary scale, as was Jimmy McGovern’s “Hillsborough” drama and, as my noble friend Lord Cashman said, “Cathy Come Home”. Telling a true story through drama can breathe life into something we know about but we have not felt.

This debate has raised a wide range of issues; lots of concerns have been raised about both funding and the pipeline of talent. My noble friend Lady Thornton spoke about how young people can be engaged and enthused by museums and theatre. We heard a lot from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and others about the role of music in health—for example, the growth of community choirs and how they are bringing people together. I am one of those people who benefited from school music lessons. I am not sure that my neighbours agreed, as I was allocated the trumpet to play at the time. Those opportunities are fewer and farther between today.

I was really struck by the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and my noble friend Lady Rebuck about books and libraries. The figure she gave of £14 million to reinstate school libraries in primary schools is one that we should all heed. I am sure I am not alone and many of us still recall going to the local library from an early age and having to beg the librarian to be able to use the adult library, because we had read all the books in the junior library. Today, one of my great pleasures at weekends is browsing around bookshops. As much as I love my Kindle, nothing replaces that hard copy of a book, and they all contribute. My noble friends Lord Bassam and Lord Grantchester and others commented about the role of the arts in regeneration for our communities. That economic role is vital. How many other industries have this reach across so many other areas of society? It is hard to think of anything else.

As we have heard from many, but we too often underestimate, the arts and culture industry is probably the most highly productive non-financial sector in the economy. Book publishing and artistic creation lead the way, but our museums and galleries and performance arts make a significant contribution.

We have heard that the industry receives some public funding, but it more than pays that back. The Centre for Economics and Business Research calculated that a total of £3.4 billion was paid by the industry in VAT, corporation tax, income tax and national insurance—many times more than the just over £400 million that some cultural organisations received from Arts Council England. Such funding has to be seen as an investment. It is not just a grant, as the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and my noble friend Lord Kinnock said.

The TV and film industry certainly plays its part. The 2023 annual census by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television revealed that, as they recovered from the pandemic, TV sector revenues increased by more than 20% in 2022 to nearly £4 billion, despite the difficult economic challenges faced. That is largely due to the world-class skills of our production teams.

In celebrating that contribution, which inspires and entertains us, we have a duty to look at how we can support and protect those working in the TV and film industry. There are many issues affecting those who work in the wider creative arts industries. I know from the 10 years when I chaired the Production Exchange charity that few earn large salaries; that self-employed and contractual work can be erratic; and that, for many, there is little job security. There are also serious health and safety issues to be addressed.

I thank the TUC, as well as the trade unions BECTU and Prospect. I am especially grateful to the Mark Milsome Foundation for the information and advice it has provided. Mark Milsome was well known in the film industry as an experienced, inspirational, innovative and talented cinematographer. The films on which he worked—“Little Voice”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Brassed Off”, “The History Boys”, “The Constant Gardener” and many more—are known to us all. In 2017 he was killed in Ghana when a stunt he was filming went horribly, tragically and fatally wrong. Three years later, in his ruling of this as an accidental death, the coroner declared that

“the risk of Mr Milsome being harmed or fatally injured was not effectively recognised, assessed, communicated or managed”.

That is shocking. It is also devastating as it is clear that this could and should have been prevented. For many in the film and TV industry, their work may also be their passion, but it is still a job and they deserve no less consideration because of that.

Mark’s case is not an isolated one but it is one of the most serious. I pay tribute to his family, his colleagues and his friends, who have set up a foundation in his name to help protect others. Three-quarters of those who work in this industry have said that their safety or that of a colleague had been compromised. Most who had reported incidents wanted to remain anonymous for fear of losing future employment, and too many people who have responsibility for health and safety do not have the necessary qualifications or experience. Yet, because of cuts, the Health and Safety Executive has 500 fewer inspectors today than in 2010, so there are fewer inspections and the issuing of fewer notices that would lead to improvements being made. That has a direct and possibly disproportionate impact on the arts sector, where there is unlikely to be an HR department on specific projects and it is unlikely that producers have the training to be fully competent to do risk assessments. Those who work in this industry, which brings us so much pleasure, deserve better.

Sometimes, small changes can bring about great improvements. We need to ask ourselves some questions; I hope to discuss them further with the Minister. Could this issue be addressed through more effective monitoring and inspections, or are fresh guidance and legislation needed? Are the existing training requirements adequate and how are they assessed? Why can this not apply to UK staff who are employed in the UK but work in other countries? It is not just about money; so much effective work could be done on the above issues. The will, commitment and support from both the industry and government could make a real difference and save lives. I hope that it will be possible for the Minister and I to meet campaigners to discuss this.

This has been an amazing debate, but we expected nothing less. At the beginning, my noble friend Lord Bragg made it clear that our support and the contribution made by the arts are not just the cherry on the cake but are integral and central to all that we do. My noble friend Lord Wood talked about public good, and my noble friend Lord Kinnock warned us against national cultural complacency.

Today we have heard, across the House and from all corners of this Chamber, the ambitions we have for our British artists, our performers, writers and painters—a whole range of areas. I was asked earlier today what I hoped for from today’s debate, and I said that I would like to see us kickstart a new national renewal of commitment to how we use the arts across every part of society, whether it is in regeneration or in drama, ensuring that in every way we contribute to well-being and the economy and moving away from warm words and simply saying that we want an analysis of what is good. We can use this debate to kick-start that, to have a real sense of what we can achieve from the ambition of those who work in our creative arts, with our support. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, has done this House a great service with this debate today.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 2:25, 1 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I happily join in with the tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, not just for securing this debate in the way he introduced it, but for a life and career devoted to championing the arts and their transformative power. The noble Lord’s contribution to the arts in this country is, indeed, unparalleled. His work on “The South Bank Show” has left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape, and he has inspired legions of people, through more than one thousand episodes of “In Our Time”, about topics they did not even know that they did not know about. The noble Lord is a living embodiment of the power of the arts, in the way that he sets out in the terms of his Motion today, but also directly on people’s lives. They are what have borne him, as the BBC profile of him on his 75th birthday put it, from Wigton to Westminster and how glad we are that they have. The great turnout that we had today is another recognition of that.

Another noble Lord who I know would have joined us, had she not lost her voice, is my noble friend Lady Sanderson of Welton. However, her voice is certainly heard loud and clear through the independent review of libraries that was published last month, which I commissioned from her, and which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and others who rightly mentioned the importance of literacy and reading have had the chance to see. It will inform the Government’s strategy for libraries for the next five years.

It is important to start by reflecting on art for art’s sake. When I go to the theatre, to the opera or to a gallery, I rarely take my seat thinking of the social benefits accruing to me by being there, or of the economic impact of the drink I buy at the bar or the magnet that I buy in the gift shop. I am thinking about what I have seen and witnessed, and how I have been challenged, moved and changed by the experience. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, rightly extolled the power of “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”, a TV drama that has moved and motivated us in a way that so many column inches and debates in Parliament have not. Although the economic and social impact of the arts is vital, the reason that I am proud of the way this Government support the arts and culture is because they are an essential part of what makes life worth living. Governments should be confident in helping people experience that. It is also why, for me and the Secretary of State, excellence in the arts is so vital. We believe that the unique and life-enriching quality of the arts are at their most potent when they combine creativity, talent, skill and rigour to create truly excellent cultural experiences. Undoubtedly, excellence comes in many forms and can look different in different places but, whatever the context, we should never be ashamed of aiming high. To that end, I agree with what noble Lords have said about the English National Opera and the Welsh National Opera and the excellent work that they do on and off-stage.

I will not go all the way that the noble Lord, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, advocates and tell the Arts Council, in either England or Wales, precisely which organisations they ought to fund. When I became Arts Minister, it was impressed on me, very clearly, how important the arm’s-length principle is, and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter about its importance: Ministers should not decide who gets what, no matter how deserving. That unenviable job is done by the Arts Council, which does the micro while the Government do the macro. I have acknowledged before that the instruction that we gave the Arts Council before the last funding round, to ensure that its funding was more equitably spread around the country, made its job harder and presented it with some invidious choices. However, I am proud that it has resulted in a record number of organisations being funded in more parts of the country than ever before, including, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, rightly mentioned, in rural parts of England. I visited Pentabus theatre company just outside Ludlow, which does brilliant work in telling the stories of rural England to audiences around the country.

Our forthcoming review of the Arts Council allows us to ask some important structural questions about how it makes its decisions and sets its strategy, how it measures them and the timeframes by which government asks it to do it. I hope that noble Lords from all corners of the House help us to inform that review.

Notwithstanding the inherent cultural value of the arts, their economic and social impact cannot be ignored. At a time when decision-makers are looking at budgets in all sorts of contexts, be they philanthropic givers, corporate sponsors or colleagues in the devolved Governments and local authorities, they would all do well to be mindful of the benefits that have been set out so clearly today. I spoke to a number of local authority leaders about this matter only yesterday and I pay tribute to groups, including the Campaign for the Arts, which keep them and us on our toes.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, did in his opening, I turn to the economic role of the arts. It is not by chance that economic growth is one of the key things identified by the Government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision, published last summer. As we set out in that document, over the past decade, the creative industries’ output has grown more than 1.5 times as quickly as the economy overall and its workforce has grown at almost five times the UK rate. The first goal set out in that vision is for the creative industries to add an extra £50 billion in gross value added by 2030. The second goal addresses one of the key enablers of that growth—its workforce. The vision makes it clear that we want to ensure that our creative workforce embodies the dynamism and talent of the whole UK, while addressing skills gaps and shortages. The arts are a vital part of that mission.

In 2022, the arts sector contributed £9.5 billion in output to our economy; that was a sharp rise from £7.4 billion the year before. We also saw increases in the workforce of the arts sector, which has grown at over 3.5 times the rate of the UK as a whole over the last decade. However, there are important skills gaps and shortages that we must address to optimise its productivity, including in technical roles across our creative and cultural venues. In part, that is because of the great demand for prop makers, set designers and technical professionals of all sorts in our booming film and television sectors, but these people are vital to our live performing arts. The Department for Education skills bootcamp funding, both nationally and locally, is one part of our work to address this; another is our work to ensure that parents, teachers and guardians have access to helpful and up-to-date careers guidance to inspire people to pursue these enriching careers.

During the pandemic, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot set out, the culture recovery fund of more than £1.5 billion supported thousands of organisations and venues across the land, helping to preserve the environment in which so many creative professionals work. The evaluation of that unprecedented fund estimated that organisations supported by it worked with more than 200,000 employees and freelancers. The impact on growth goes further: creativity might not be unique to arts and culture, but it is certainly where it is most prized and cherished. Creativity is at the heart of innovation across our economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, rightly said in his contribution. Skills and attitudes to innovation, which are incubated in the arts, can spill over happily into the rest of our economy, so we should applaud the arts and creative industries not only for their own output but for how they make us more creative, productive and globally competitive in so many other industries. As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, said, they are not the cherry; they are the cake.

As many noble Lords pointed out, the impact of the arts goes far beyond their pure economic value. That is why the third goal of the Creative Industries Sector Vision is to maximise the positive impact of the creative industries on individuals, communities, the environment and the UK’s global standing. We start from a good foundation: people engage with the arts in the UK on a very wide scale. According to the DCMS’s participation survey, more than four in five adults engaged with the arts in the previous year—a powerful demonstration of how the arts remain an integral part of our national life. It is clear that this engagement has a positive effect on people’s lives, improving their health, education and well-being.

A key social impact of the arts is its positive impact on our health and well-being, including its use as a non-medical intervention through the growing work on social prescribing. A recent study involving more than 1,100 people aged 40 and above by the University of Exeter found that playing a musical instrument or joining a choir is linked to better memory and cognitive skills in older age, particularly for those suffering with dementia.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a reception for Paintings in Hospitals, hosted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London here in your Lordships’ House, in the Cholmondeley Room. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, was there, and spoke proudly today of his role as a patron. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, recognised his great generosity, not just financially but through the time and expertise that he brings to so many organisations in the arts in this country. Paintings in Hospitals does wonderful work, loaning artwork to, and running art projects and workshops in, health and social care organisations across the country. Likewise, Arts Council England, in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing and others, set up the thriving communities fund, which has supported many initiatives to increase social connectedness and provided a great boon to many during the pandemic.

Many more arts organisations across the country are doing fantastic work in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, talked about the transformative impact of the arts on my home city, Newcastle. I had the pleasure of admiring the Laing Art Gallery’s work in 10 Downing Street earlier this week, as it is this year’s museum in residence at No. 10. It delivers a hugely powerful service to the community on Tyneside through its Meet @ the Laing project. The sessions that it runs offer an opportunity for people to socialise, overcome loneliness, and boost their well-being every month by exploring a different aspect of the art in the gallery over a cup of tea. On the other side of the Tyne, I visited Northbourne care home in Gateshead during Arts in Care Homes week, in September. Over a delicious cup of coffee in its pop-up coffee shop, I saw how arts and creativity were helping the residents and their families, both physically and mentally. Last year, we saw the launch of the national creative health associates programme, supported by the Arts Council and the National Centre for Creative Health—and I am glad that its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, took part in our debate today.

Many noble Lords spoke of the powerful impact that the arts can have on children and young people. That is why it is so important that we ensure that children and young people have access to high-quality cultural education and creativity, inside and outside school. I am one of the 93%, and very proudly, educated in the state sector, which is why I want to ensure that everybody has access to the opportunities which are so often illustrated in the posters and adverts for private schools.

The Government’s refreshed national plan for music education, The Power of Music to Change Lives, informed by a panel chaired by my noble friend Lady Fleet, aims to level up music opportunities for all children and young people. As part of the commitments that we made alongside that plan, £25 million of new funding is being made available to purchase hundreds of thousands of musical instruments and equipment for young people, including adaptive instruments for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities. The refreshed plan also renews our commitment to the music hubs programme, delivered by the Arts Council, providing £79 million a year.

Looking ahead, we intend to increase the opportunities for all children and young people in culture more broadly, including, as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, rightly highlighted, in heritage crafts and skills. In the coming weeks, the cultural education plan, being shaped as we speak by a panel chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, will set out a blueprint for the way in which government and its partners can work together to improve cultural education across the country for all children and young people. The plan is intended to highlight the importance of high-quality cultural education and promote its social value, support career progression pathways, address skills gaps, and tackle disparities in opportunity. I have attended a number of the panel’s discussions so far, and I am grateful for the work that it is doing to encourage us to be ambitious for the lives of young people.

An arts education fosters creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. It cultivates a space where young minds learn to express themselves, develop a sense of self and appreciate diverse perspectives. Moreover, arts education nurtures the skills essential for a dynamic workforce, producing minds capable of critical thinking and adaptability. These are things that no country should take lightly, and certainly should not take for granted, which is why cultural education is such a priority for the Secretary of State and for me.

While an arts education plays an important role in developing individuals, we know that it has a wider impact on society. For example, the Arts and Place Shaping: Evidence Review, commissioned by Arts Council England and published in 2022, points to a body of evidence that demonstrates how arts and culture-led regeneration and investment can help to promote social cohesion and civic pride. Alongside this study, other research, including the McKinsey study mentioned by many noble Lords today, has testified that cultural participation can contribute to social relationships, community cohesion, and making communities feel safer and stronger. Its impact depends not only on the individual efforts of artists and arts organisations but on the whole ecosystem: creators, educators, distributors and promoters, suppliers, funders and audiences.

To that end, and in line with the challenge rightly posed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, we are delivering a number of programmes to help communities across the country to extend and improve their arts and cultural offerings. The £4.8 billion levelling up fund, for example, invests in local infrastructure projects that improve life for people across the UK, focusing on regeneration and transport, and supporting cultural, creative and heritage assets. The second round of the fund, announced last January, included over £500 million of support, awarded to 31 culture and heritage-led projects.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was right to talk about the infrastructure of live music venues. My colleagues and I have been pleased to meet with the Music Venue Trust. I hope that the noble Lord has seen that £5 million was given, alongside the creative industries sector vision, to support grass-roots music.

Since its launch in 2019, over three rounds of funding so far, the cultural development fund has supported a number of other culture-led regeneration projects. The successful recipients of the third round, totalling over £32 million, were announced last March. Recipients were spread across the country, from Yorkshire to Devon, fuelling projects that will make a real difference to local people. Just yesterday, I launched the fourth round of the cultural development fund, with another £15.2 million available to support transformative projects across England. I warmly encourage people to apply.

My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond spoke proudly of his role during London 2012 in fusing sports and art, and he spoke passionately about making sure they are open to people, whatever their needs and background. I am grateful to him for doing so. My department and the Arts Council are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our culture and heritage across the UK for everybody, whatever their background or needs. The Arts Council has done excellent work in recent years to widen access. As part of its national portfolio, it supports a range of organisations striving to improve access, from Attitude is Everything, which seeks to connect people with disabilities with music and live events, to VocalEyes, which works with arts organisations across the UK to remove barriers to access and inclusion for blind and partially sighted people. More broadly, in its new portfolio, the Arts Council is supporting an increased number of organisations—32 of them—led by people with disabilities. The Government’s museum estate and development fund supports physical adaptations to buildings to make them more accessible to everybody.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for recording my first visit to Liverpool. I am ashamed that it took me 40 years to make it, but I was delighted that when I went the Beatles were at No. 1. It was a delight to see him at National Museums Liverpool. I know he supports that DCMS arm’s-length body wholeheartedly. My officials continue to talk to the team there about their exciting plans, which I was delighted to see for myself, with our colleagues from the Department for Levelling Up and from the Treasury.

I am very happy to meet the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the campaigners she mentioned who are working to ensure that everybody can play their full part in the arts and creative industries, and to do so safely.

We heard a great number of thoughtful views from noble Lords. I do not think that we are in any disagreement about the inherent power, economic value or social impact of arts and culture in the UK. Happily, this has been, for the most part, a non-partisan speech, as exemplified by the pantheon of cross-party heroes listed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, in her winding-up speech.

I must take slight exception to what the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, said. We have had a number of exchanges before about the increased grant in aid provided by the Government to Arts Council England. I hope noble Lords know that I would never seek to insult their intelligence, and I certainly would not get away with doing so. I have acknowledged that the increase of more than £43 million that we provided to the Arts Council in the most recent spending review is hampered by the rise in inflation. That is why the Government are working to bring inflation down and why we have halved it. It stands in stark contrast to the cut in arts funding proposed by the Labour Government in Wales, of nearly £3 million and more than 10%. I hope the noble Viscount will take exception to that.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Services Committee, Chair, Services Committee

My Lords, I can tell that the Minister is coming to a close, and there are a couple of minutes left. I would very much appreciate it—and I am sure that his noble friend Lady Hooper also would—if he would, in passing at least, address the question of theatre tax relief. It is a very serious matter for the arts sector, and I hope he will address it.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I certainly will; I have it next on my list to do. I talked about it with orchestral leaders and the Association of British Orchestras in Bristol last week; we speak about it regularly with museums and theatres as well. But my noble friend is right to talk about the importance of the way that it is encouraging innovation, risk-taking, and new writing, productions and tours. We are very glad to have secured the extension we did at the last Budget. We continue to feed all the evidence of shows such as “Black Sabbath—The Ballet”, which, like my noble friend, I had the pleasure of seeing, to our colleagues at the Treasury to show the impact that that is making—the new productions, the new jobs, and the new enjoyment it brings—and to measure that in a Green Book-compliant way, so that we can make the strongest case for those tax reliefs and their impact.

I hope noble Lords will see that those extensions secured at the last Budget, the funding through the levelling up fund, the cultural development fund, and the work we are doing through the cultural educational plan and the national plan for music education are parts of the way that the Government, like all noble Lords who have spoken in today’s debate, agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, put forward in his Motion. We are very grateful to him for giving us the important opportunity to have today’s valuable debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in it.

Photo of Lord Bragg Lord Bragg Llafur 2:46, 1 Chwefror 2024

I will make a very short speech; I have a very small amount of time, and that suits me, because I have enjoyed listening to other people. The support for the arts all over the House has been such a pleasure. There has been well-thought-through information; people are coming at it not with swipes of prejudice, but having looked at their own experience—personally, in the places where they live, and historically. If we know one thing after this debate, it is that the House of Lords is firmly on the side of the arts: of digging into them, developing them and seeing them in their rightful place in society. All we have to do is convince the rest of the country.

I just had a good time. You do not often go down a street and see so many people you admire and like saying all the things you want to listen to, but I had that experience today. I will single out one person: my noble friend Lady Smith, who encouraged me to do this. I was very nervous, as I had not been in the House for one reason or another, but she could not have been more helpful—or more firm. Right up to the last minute, I felt I was almost going to be pulled into the Chamber. It was wonderful working with her.

I thank everybody. It is a great thing noble Lords have done for the arts, and I think it will move things forward. I hope so.

Motion agreed.