When times are dark, culture provides a light. The current crisis proves this more than ever. I’m moved by the way that millions have engaged with #CultureinQuarantine and tuned in to The Big Night In on BBC One, while also creating new forms of creative content from lockdown.
Recently, minister Caroline Dinenage wrote in The Stage that “we must do everything we can to protect the arts” and I agree. Labour is taking a constructive approach during this crisis, reserving criticism for where it’s necessary. Therefore, we must examine what our creative industries need as part of an exit strategy for Covid-19. There are a number of points that must be addressed:
The arts sector is the least understood, the least supported and risks being the last to be back to full capacity. It is worrying that some analysis shows the creative industries are estimated to be more badly hit than construction and manufacturing. Financial support must last for as long as the industry is affected.
Being unable to access government investment in research and development hinders the very ingenuity that makes us special. The government must ensure creatives can access research and development funding, including the £750 million announced last month by the chancellor. We also need literary and acting agents to be reclassified as leisure industries to help them get the support they need to survive this crisis.
Our theatres, venues, museums and libraries are the beating heart of our communities. The government must recognise this and work for all regions, not just the South East.
When I asked how people have been affected by the crisis, the response was overwhelming. Thousands told me the same story: no work in the diary, everything cancelled overnight, no compensation. Despite the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, many are falling between the cracks. Why is it Scotland and Wales can support those falling through the net, and not England?
Other countries are already supporting their creative industries get back on their feet. We must take best practice ideas from Sweden, South Korea and New Zealand, where filming has already resumed.
My report Culture for All highlighted concerns that the crisis could drive working-class talent out of our sector. We simply cannot let the next generation of Stormzys and Maxine Peakes go undiscovered.
Creative industries face an existential crisis. Labour wants to see something akin to a Marshall Plan for the arts to show vision and leadership on how we recover and rebuild. We will do all that we can to make it happen.