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Arts Funding

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

3. How much funding the Arts Council England has awarded to (a) opera and (b) brass bands over the last five years. (172199)

In the last five years, the Arts Council England has awarded £987,000 to brass bands. Individuals playing in brass bands have also benefited from grants to the arts under the Arts Council “Take It Away” loan scheme. Over the same period, funding for opera totalled £159.681 million. The Royal Opera House also received funding in excess of £116 million to promote ballet and opera.

I estimate that, over the last five years, for every £1 that brass bands have been given, opera has been given some £1,113. It is even worse than that, because funding for opera has risen by 28 per cent. in the last five years while funding for brass bands has decreased by 22 per cent. Will the Minister agree to meet me and representatives from the brass bands, particularly the community and youth band sector, to ensure that we level up and deal with that gross situation?

I certainly do not want my hon. Friend to be brassed off, so I say to him that I support opera and brass bands. In that spirit, I will of course be delighted to meet him.

As my constituency is the home of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, may I request that a few brass bands—perhaps from Barnsley—visit my constituency? As far as I am aware, we have none that are funded.

Undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman will encourage various community groups in his constituency to take up brass band music. He has a good brass section in the opera house orchestra.

Although it is right to subsidise a range of arts, does the Minister accept that a disproportionate amount of subsidy goes to opera, which I enjoy and agree should be subsidised? In particular, does she accept that other forms of art require more subsidy, especially jazz?

We should not get into a bidding process this afternoon. I make a serious point to my hon. Friend, which is that opera is the largest employer in the subsidised arts sector. That is because putting on an opera is complicated. There is a building, scenery and the orchestra to consider. However, we value brass bands and also jazz, which I particularly value.