In Parliament, much of my current work focuses on fighting to protect my constituents from the damaging effects of Brexit.
I’m pleased to report that yesterday I won a small victory, when I met with Margot James, Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, together with the Musicians’ Union. I have been pushing for this meeting for some time.
The Musicians’ Union, and individual performers, have repeatedly told me that they are worried they will not be able to tour in the EU, or easily move instruments and other equipment, without the proper agreements in place. This could be solved by creating a visa for people who need to tour. And it’s not just about British musicians – audiences also risk missing out, if musicians from elsewhere start cutting the UK from their tour plans. Musicians who have toured the US tell me how expensive touring can be when they need visas.
Creative industries contributed £92 billion to the UK in 2016, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country. For Bristol, it would be a tragedy if leaving the EU harmed the creative scene which makes up a large part of the city’s vibrant economy and culture.
We were able to convince the Minister of the importance of these temporary visas. She agreed to speak to the Home Office about facilitating travel for performers. I was very pleased she made this commitment.
Protecting music venues and music lessons
In addition to Brexit, I asked the Minister to consider the need to protect small music venues in the face of pressure from property developers – a campaign I have taken up on behalf of Bristol’s unique and lively music scene. She agreed that this should be a priority and stated that she would look into this issue.
We also discussed the importance of improving schoolchildren’s access to musical instrument lessons. When children can access instrumental education, it may be sporadic and basic. The Minister agreed that high-quality music education is important for all children. As well as the intrinsic value of music, there are many other benefits. I will be speaking to the Treasury, making the case for more funding before the autumn Budget.