House of Lords Debate

February 5, 2024

The contribution of the arts to the economy and society

Headline Summary

· Lord Bragg introduced the debate demonstrating the important contribution of the arts to the economy and society alongside the challenges facing the creative arts sector.

· Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson Lord Bassam of Brighton drew attention to the role the arts can play in regeneration, particularly in seaside and coastal communities.

· Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury underlined that the arts must be returned to “centre stage” in the education system.

· Baroness Rebuck raised concern about the “downgrading of humanities” at universities.

· DCMS Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said the Government’s forthcoming review of the Arts Council will “ask some important structural questions about how it makes its decisions”.

· He confirmed that the Cultural Education Plan will be published “in the coming weeks”.

Economic contribution

· Lord Bragg emphasised that the creative arts generate more revenue than the life sciences, aerospace and construction industries combined.

· He said the creative arts could cultivate and transform society if there was a vision and a will for it.

· He cited examples of Newcastle and Gateshead, Leeds and Manchester as areas that have embraced the arts to reinvigorate otherwise dwindling economies.

· He said the impressive nature of the arts as a site of economic growth, that has grown 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy, is often ignored.

· Lord Kinnock agreed with that the UK takes the arts for granted and a spur of action must take place to overcome this collective complacency.

· He argued that the £20bn worth of cuts to central funding since 2010 had forced councils to cut back on arts provision.

· He complained that the effects of these cuts on creative activities have been socially, educationally and economically counterproductive.

· Baroness Rebuck stated that the destruction of the arts ecosystem began with 2010 austerity cuts, with local authorities suffering a 40% real-time core funding cut over 10 years.

· Baroness Garden of Frognal stated that the arts contribute £126bn in gross value to the economy and employ 2.4 million people.

· Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson Lord Bassam of Brighton drew attention to the role the arts can play in regeneration, particularly in seaside and coastal communities.

· He called for a “framework of renewal and a national plan for improving the seaside that embraces that potential”.

Health contribution

· Lord Bragg stated that a 2018 WHO report compiled 3,500 evidence sources showing the physical, emotional and intellectual benefit of people of all ages engaging in the arts.

· He noted the importance of the arts to create an emotionally and intellectually healthy generation.

· Lord Vaizey of Didcot said the arts offer huge benefits for health, education, criminal justice and British soft power.

· Lord Howarth of Newport highlighted that creative health strategies can be used as intervention to support people living with mental and physical health conditions. He added that London and Greater Manchester already have creative health strategies for their city regions.

· He called for a Governmental strategy to harness the power of creative health.

· He continued that creative health improves wellbeing, reduces inequalities, improves economic productivity, reduces pressure on the NHS and supports the resilience of staff in the NHS.

Arts funding

· Lord Bragg explained that many theatres face closure and have lost Government subsidies.

· He cited a Lords Select Committee report last June that said Government policy in the creative arts sector is “complacent” and “jeopardises the commercial potential” of the creative arts.

· He mentioned the English National Opera, that was given a 24-hour notice that all of its funding would be taken away, despite being a profitable venture for Arts Council England.

· He said the reviewing of the BBC licence fee in 2027 was another example of the Government refusing to engage with the creative arts.

· Lord Vaizey of Didcot noted that whilst more arts funding may be needed, it was not insubstantial.

· He explained his belief that the Government should decide which arts venues are its national champions and guarantee these institutions long-term stable funding.

· Lord Aberdare said there were massive issues for grassroots arts venues. He added that more than one venue has closed a week in 2023, with 42% of these closures related to financial issues.

· Lord Rooker emphasised that rural arts also need support, giving the example of Mid Wales Opera that had all of its funding cut by the Art Council of Wales.

· Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said the Government’s forthcoming review of the Arts Council will “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”.

Arts education

· Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury underlined that the arts must be returned to “centre stage” in the education system.

· She criticised the Conservative mantra which has been STEM not STEAM.

· Lord Bragg emphasised that education would be important to fully change society and the British attitude towards the arts. He said the uptake in music GCSEs and thus staff numbers for creative arts teaching has dropped.

· Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson Baroness Thornton highlighted a National Theatre scheme called New Views, where students get to write a play and potentially have it performed on the stage of the National Theatre.

· She emphasised that there is so much potential for the arts around the UK, but that often children will not have the opportunity to engage with it.

· Lord Berkeley of Knighton characterised the arts sector as being in the “midst of a crisis”.

· He raised concern over the lack of sufficient literature in primary schools in deprived areas, adding that many state schools do not have adequate music provision.

· Baroness Rebuck warned that there was no Government plan to improve literacy or creativity in schools and that the downgrading of humanities at universities will erode the pipeline of talent.

· She said creative talent in the UK was still there but there are no policies to allow it to flourish.

· Lord Howarth of Newport suggested the DfE should focus more on creativity in schools.

· Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said there are important skills gaps and shortages that need to be addressed to optimise the productivity of the arts sector, including in technical roles across creative and cultural venues.

· He confirmed that the Cultural Education Plan will be published “in the coming weeks”.

· He said it 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”.

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