Music and the arts have always been a big part of my life – as a trained professional cellist, I understand the skill, graft, and commitment for all those involved in arts and the related industries. I will always support the arts, not just because they are part of why Bristol is so great but because of my own strong personal commitment. Thank you to everyone who has been writing to me about this. I understand your concerns and I will continue to represent them.
I am not just a firm believer in the value of the cultural, entertainment, heritage and nightlife industries in Bristol but also of the economic benefit they bring to our city. This includes the supply chains creating many other jobs, for example taxi drivers. I have been speaking to people suffering as a result of COVID but also due to the government’s response.
Over the last few months I have held large public meetings on the arts and music sectors in Bristol, hearing many ideas, voices, and organisations’ views around recovery, the support needed, and inclusivity and about building back. The sector’s innovation and ability to work hard to adapt to the current climate has been incredibly inspiring.
Most recently, I wrote to the Chancellor and Business Secretary. Hearing so much of the work that these organisations have done to ensure that the public can enjoy their services, it is extremely disappointing that these organisations were not consulted or properly supported by the government’s new proposals.
There are still gaps which the government must fill to support freelancers, the self-employed and those in sectors that cannot reopen. My Labour colleagues and I have been pushing the government to go further, by taking up concerns with the Chancellor, Culture Secretary, the Arts Council and WECA.
I know how Bristol’s cultural organisations have been concerned about the curfew – and many of you have been in touch. I included these concerns in my letter to the Business Secretary and Chancellor, alongside your concerns about other aspects of the various health restrictions and COVID measures.
I am pleased that Arts Council England recently granted additional emergency funding for so many Bristol organisations across the spectrum of our night-time and cultural industries, including some pubs, music venues, concert halls and theatres. However, I continue to be concerned about the long-term support needed for individual artists and musicians, as well as other freelancers and the technical jobs that go with them. Both Arts Council and WECA have made it clear in their letters to me that they want to hear from you if you are struggling – I would advise you to take up their offer.
This week (week beginning 12th October) things have moved fast. While there have been Parliamentary motions on the 10pm closing time, these were bundled up with other health measures. This meant I could not vote against them.
But since those votes, which already feel like a long time ago, we are now in a different situation, with the three-tier system. We are currently in the lowest tier of risk but our rates are rising rapidly. It’s all the more important that we have targeted financial support for businesses suffering as a direct result of the restrictions.
And the scientific evidence demonstrates without a reliable test, track and trace system – which we don’t have currently, because of the way the government has set it up – we urgently need a short temporary version of lockdown in order to re-set the system. For this reason, Labour Leader Keir Starmer, Labour leader, has asked the government to bring this in nationally, with targeted support for jobs and businesses and using the time to fix test and trace urgently.
You have my support – I know that you want people to be safe and that you will do everything to ensure that you can open safely. You want your business to continue to bring joy and prosperity – and so do I.
I know that if the government were committed to properly supporting businesses which are viable in the long term, we would be having a different discussion. The chancellor needs to recognise the long-term viability of businesses in the cultural and nightlife sectors of Bristol.