Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the contemporary practice of the arts, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts.
My Lords, UNESCO in 2015 summarised its 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, which refers to the legislation and public policies that a member state should have, by describing their two objectives: first, acknowledging the important role that artists play in society; and secondly, encouraging creative expression and ensuring equitable treatment for professional artists by developing appropriate measures which respond to their unique circumstances and the atypical manner in which they work.
As I will endeavour to show, these are fundamental objectives that we are in danger of losing sight of. As UNESCO recognises, the work of the artist is a contribution to society. That is its value. The arts as a project of contemporary work should not have to justify themselves economically, despite the money spent over the years at the behest of successive Governments in doing so and despite whatever the results of such surveys are. The artist, in whatever medium, needs living costs, time, resources and space to develop their own particular practice, often over a long period of time; and space, too, for display or performance.
What I am not sure about is where exactly in government the responsibility for support for this work lies. One of the reasons I wanted to have this debate was to pull the work of artists out from the position where it has sat uncomfortably within the creative industries grouping, which emphasises economic success—although, since the departmental reorganisation earlier this year, it appears to straddle that and a policy area that stresses the importance of tourism, including our national museums and galleries. Where precisely within the department does the responsibility for enabling the UNESCO objectives lie?
This is a vital question. If we went by the headline news, the success of the creative industries—remarkable capital projects such as the St Ives Tate extension, and the outstanding work that is produced—one might, as a consumer of the arts, particularly if you live in London, be led to believe that everything in the garden is rosy. The reality is different. The great majority of practitioners—whether in fine art, music, writing, theatre or dance—are finding it increasingly difficult to carry out their work properly.
From 2010 to 2015, Arts Council funding fell by 36% and in real terms is set to drop further. Local authority investment in arts and culture is down 17% since 2010. By and large, these moneys are not replaceable, despite government exhortation to find alternative methods of funding. This is proved through the reduced budgets of theatres, orchestras and dance companies. Local museums, galleries and performance spaces have had to reduce access or close their doors, while art centres have had to cut back significantly on mounting innovative work. This is exemplified too by the decreasing income amongst the majority of creators. The visual artists support organisation a-n, in its new survey, shows that 41% of its membership has a total income from any source of less than £10,000 a year. According to the London mayor office’s briefing, shockingly, most professional dancers earn less than £5,000 a year.
A concern for artists and musicians is fair remuneration for their work. In 2016, 28% of openly offered opportunities for visual artists offered no payment. A working group on paying artists has been set up by a-n to tackle the issue, yet clearly public spaces, the main target of the campaign, also need to receive the funding from central government to offer properly paid opportunities.
Many artists are self-employed and their incomes will fluctuate significantly throughout the year. As Artists’ Union England points out, the rollout of universal credit and loss of tax credits, as discussed earlier today in the Chamber, will have a hugely damaging effect on livelihoods. As Artists’ Union England says,
“the DWP should not penalise artists for being poor”.
The cuts have adversely affected women, especially those with family commitments. There needs to be greater encouragement of women as arts project leaders, something that the Arts Council can take a lead in. The more there is gender equality in the arts, including in hierarchical situations, the healthier our arts will be, and I ask the Minister to comment on this.
A particular concern is the increasing threat to spaces for the arts in our towns and cities—concerns flagged up by both a-n and Equity. In London, 30% of affordable artist studios are set to be lost in the next two years, while 40% of small-scale live music venues have been lost in the last 10. For artists, this adds on even more financial pressure. The problems are growing gentrification, cash-strapped councils, which are selling buildings for development, and now the problem of the loosening of planning regulations. Zoning is, in the end, not an ideal answer. A properly holistic approach to community development from our city governments and local authorities is desperately needed, and that requires a radical approach which must include rent capping. The effect in London is that many artists are leaving the city altogether. This is not a desirable outcome.
One of the more oddly disturbing effects of the cuts is the extent to which the use of new media in arts projects has stalled, as noted in this year’s report on digital culture by the Arts Council. This has, for example, been true for both the Norwich Theatre Royal and the Hull Truck Theatre, which say that they,
“often have creative ideas for digital projects which might support or enhance ... work on stage, but fail to realise them for reasons such as capacity, resource … or funding”.
In the current circumstances, the Arts Council has, rightly, this year got money to the regions, where it is needed, although by doing so one feels that it is moving into territory that should be covered by local authorities. It is high time that the damaging cuts to local authorities and the Arts Council were reversed, enabling artists throughout the whole country to carry out their work.
On a related funding matter, there is some concern over the future of the lottery. I ask the Minister whether the department is keeping an eye on this and in what way?
I will talk briefly about arts education in schools, not least because every area of the arts I have spoken to raises this as a major concern. Many of us would implore the department to have serious talks with the DfE about an education policy that is already being destructive not only to the arts but to all of the creative industries. As NESTA has said, the pipeline needs to be fixed for STEAM talent. From the point of view of arts practice, my fears are, first, that it will affect diversity, and we are seeing this already in the acting profession. Secondly, by turning those who study the arts into second-class citizens, we will be producing in a generation a less sympathetic environment into which new artists launch themselves. The effect of the EBacc is now significantly reducing take-up of many arts subjects, and there is anecdotal evidence in schools that this unsympathetic environment is already developing.
I end by saying a few words about Brexit. Many of the arts, including, for example, dance companies, share with the creative industries a huge concern over the potential loss of workers from the EEA. This is not just the loss of an employment pool; it is also about innovative collaboration and cultural exchange between artists. However, the particular concern of artists and companies is about movement the other way—into Europe. The loss of free movement would be disastrous for those often young British artists starting out on their career and wanting to develop their practice in other environments, often in a work situation. It will be disastrous too for those who make multiple visits abroad as part of their professional commitments. The Incorporated Society of Musicians notes that musicians may travel to Europe over 40 times a year. Dance companies too may give dozens of performances a year within Europe. Visas will be simply unrealistic. One Dance UK also points out concerns about possible increased freight costs, such as those involving the movement of sets and costumes.
The phrase that terrifies me most is “attracting the brightest and the best”, because if we leave the EEA and this is to be the reciprocated policy, then only the privileged—that is, the established and the salaried—will be able to move freely between the UK and the rest of Europe. We will need a workable non-bureaucratic solution that does not penalise the less well-off.
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society makes the point that continuing concerns about copyright, transparency, contracts and fair pay for authors, which are bound up with the EU draft directive on the digital single market, are still to be resolved, and we need to grasp that opportunity to create a fairer deal. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, has displayed sympathy over those Brexit concerns. What we have not had from government, however, is any response that allays these fears.
On a more general note, the voices of artists need to be heard more clearly within government. What round-table talks has the Secretary of State had with artists and practitioners? Perhaps they should have membership on the Creative Industries Council; currently, there is no direct representation from creators, the council being made up of industry, grant-funding bodies and the commercial end of the sector.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for introducing this debate. I want to concentrate on museums and their possible role in relation to contemporary practitioners of art and craft. It may be time to have a bit of a policy think about this subject.
As we know, museums are rather arbitrarily divided between national museums and local government or provincial museums. I think that the division has probably got more to do with visitors to this country than anything intrinsic to museums. I want to give one example of funding. There is a small, very good national museum in London which has 120,000 visitors a year. It gets from the DCMS in core funding £1,750,000. In the north-east, in County Durham, is the largest provincial museum in the country, with arguably the finest collections of any provincial museum—the Bowes Museum. It is funded by a small county under great pressure, which has lost its coalmines and steelworks—not an easy place for local government to operate. The museum has £350,000 of core funding, and 120,000 visitors. So the finest provincial museum has the same visitor numbers as a small national museum in London—a very good museum, but I am not going to name it—but that London museum is getting five times the core grant that the Bowes Museum is getting. That does not seem to me easily defensible, with regard to a national policy towards museums. I would be most grateful if the DCMS and my noble friend on the Front Bench could take account of that matter. Perhaps I could suggest that we have a meeting to discuss this issue in more depth and detail, because it is a very serious one.
Another point about museums is that, when funding is tight, it is quite difficult for them to keep up with contemporary art, which is expanding at a rapid pace and in many different directions—digital was mentioned by the noble Earl. For example, if you go to the Ashmolean, a very fine museum, and look at its collection of 20th and early 21st-century studio pottery, you will see some very fine pottery, including pieces by Lucy Rie, a pot by whom sold for £125,000 in Christie’s about a fortnight ago. But it is a very small collection, absolutely nothing like the size of its 18th-century collection or 19th-century ceramics. How are those museums going to keep up? Frankly, with the funding situation and the challenge, I do not think they are.
Another serious policy position is around where museums have got to and where they are going. Will they have closed collections, like the Wallace Collection, never acquiring, lending or disposing anything? Those are big issues, and I think that they should be considered in some depth, which is not happening at the moment.
Museums need to think about life differently. We have started that at the Bowes Museum. We have created a centre for contemporary art, craft and design. Incidentally, it is currently privately funded. Its purpose is to work with practitioners in the north of England to see how we can support them and how they can relate to a museum and the collections we have. It is becoming more difficult to relate today’s generation to museums than it used to be because, again, of the way things have moved on. A minimalist approach to living is prevalent, but there are all sorts of other reasons.
I hope the DCMS will review the situation because it will not get any better. The fact of the matter is, however much we appeal for it, there is no more money available to be distributed. We have to find other ways. Surely they must include a policy approach, self-help and a functioning of the funding system, such as it is, that is more appropriate to the needs of today than the one that exists at present.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, who made an excellent summary of the issues facing artists and the difficulties placed on them following the Brexit referendum, with a squeeze on funding and a rise in the cost of living. In the time I have I will concentrate my attention on the visual arts. In doing so, I declare my experience as a fine artist.
As the noble Earl said, probably the most critical issue facing the visual arts is the shrinking of arts provision in state schools due to curriculum changes and the concentration on STEM. This, coupled with the Government’s doctrinaire support of the EBacc and the absence of arts subjects within its metric, is steadily eroding the number of students who might wish to consider a career in the arts as the opportunities to be exposed to creative and arts subjects decline.
Given the extraordinary success of our creative industries, our world-class art colleges, the international calibre of our visual artists and London being the second-largest art market in the world, you would have thought it an astonishing own goal not to fund creative arts subjects to a level that reflects their importance to our economy. Yet that is exactly what the Government are doing. Aside from the cultural benefits of the arts there are direct economic benefits for this country. We must act to defend them and safeguard the next generation of workers for our creative industries. It would therefore be good to know what steps the Government are taking to support arts provision at primary and secondary level.
When thinking about this debate, I was particularly struck by a stark statistic provided in a parliamentary briefing by a-n, the Artists Information Company, in its 2017 survey. This is, as the noble Earl mentioned, that 41% of visual artists have a total income from all sources of less than £10,000 and only 27% achieved a total income of more than £20,000. In reality, the majority of artists in the visual arts are scarcely getting by, despite 80% of them being qualified to degree level and above. Consequently, for many of the 35,000 graduates who leave art and design colleges every year, the high cost of living in cities, particularly London, and the lack of affordable workspaces is a real and growing problem. A constant theme I heard during my research for this speech is the drain or loss of talent, as more and more artists can no longer afford to spend time on their creative practice because they have to work on whatever they need to do to pay for their workspace and materials. This is particularly wasteful given the huge resources and effort we put into their training.
Investment in glamorous venues, such as Tate Modern and the V&A, where audiences can see new work has overshadowed a lack of investment in the building blocks of artistic research—the workspaces where artists create their work. If workspace for creative people is considered important and we wish to retain our position as a beacon of artistic practice, we need to address how we support this. But time is running out. A 2014 GLA report on artists’ workspaces in London, for example, stated that some 28% of artists’ studios are under threat within the next five years,
“as operators do not expect to be able to renew leasehold/rental agreements to secure their premises, demonstrating the precarious nature of affordable artists’ workspace”.
That helps explain why lately a steady stream of artists has been leaving London for towns on the south coast.
The experience of other cities, such as New York and Berlin, in addressing this problem has been one of tactical interventions, such as planning protection, direct investment in under-occupied buildings, reductions in business rates and core funding to subsidise rent. Similarly, many councils, such as Hackney, are trying hard to set policy to deliver affordable workspace. It would therefore be useful to hear what plans the Government are putting in place to protect these workspaces, especially when in recent years there has been a great deal of commissioned research yet as of today, it is still not clear what action has been taken to deal with the problem.
London’s escalating rents and increasing land values have had other knock-on effects. The rise of commercial rents has squeezed many small and emerging commercial galleries out of business. In recent years cutting-edge galleries such as Nettie Horn, Carroll/Fletcher, Vilma Gold and Limoncello have all closed, which makes it increasingly difficult for UK-based artists to enter the commercial gallery world. International galleries such as the Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner and the Pace Gallery all tend to take on artists who have already established themselves. So we have a conundrum in that as cultural consumers, London has never given us more access to the world of contemporary art through these extraordinary international art spaces but, for artists, there appear to be fewer routes for our home-grown talent and, by extension, for our gallerists and curators. It would be good to know whether this has been recognised and understood as a concern by organisations such as the Arts Council and, if so, whether there are any strategies in place to address this, as they are a vital part of the arts ecology.
National museums and organisations funded by the Arts Council also need to play their part. Too often, publicly-funded galleries pay artists almost nothing as a fee when they have spent months making work for an exhibition and borne many of the costs, such as studio rent. In some cases, the galleries pocket the entry fees from the public to visit such exhibitions. This effectively keeps many artists in poverty. As the noble Earl said, galleries should pay artists proper fees for their work as set out by organisations such as Artists’ Union England. I hope the DCMS and Arts Council England will look to formalise these payments as a condition of receiving funding. At the same time, artists who have benefited from the publicity and acclaim of showing in public galleries should expect to contribute a percentage of the sale of any exhibited artworks to reimburse some of the gallery’s exhibition costs.
The other big issue is Brexit. There appear to have been few discussions about what impact Brexit will have on our access to culture, specifically museum exhibitions, and how this may inhibit European international opportunities for UK artists, as well as for incoming artists’ shows. There is a real danger that we will become inward looking, not only in terms of visual arts. Related to that is the issue of visas, both for museums and galleries wanting to attract international artists and for art schools wishing to continue to attract large numbers of international students, as well as international artists who can enrich their programmes. Although welcome, yesterday’s announcement of the doubling of exceptional talent visas from 1,000 to 2,000 is merely a sticking plaster. It remains to be seen whether that will have any impact on artists, but it does not begin to answer how we maintain Britain’s reputation as an open and welcoming cultural hub. It would be good to know what the Government’s plans are in response to that.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for securing time for this important debate. I am delighted that the noble Earl is so assiduous in reminding the Government that there are issues other than Brexit worth discussing, and particularly in reminding them of the importance of looking after the nation’s cultural well-being as well as its economic needs.
The noble Earl has a well-known track record in this regard. Almost six years ago, on 3 February 2011, I had the honour of delivering my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House in a debate that he introduced, “to call attention to public funding for the arts”. Since then, the noble Earl has introduced a large number of debates on public funding for the arts, and I hope that he will go on doing so for a long time to come.
In that speech almost six years ago, I said:
“We are very privileged in this country to have access to a world-class arts scene: theatre, opera, dance, music, museums, galleries and much more”,
and that this was made possible,
“through a combination of state funding and the generosity of a relatively small number of public-spirited individuals and corporations”.—[Official Report, 3/2/11; col. 1527.]
I pointed out that while it was normal practice in this country for supporters of the arts to complain vociferously about how little support the Government provides to the arts compared with other European countries, the truth is that compared with the United States, for example, the level of government funding for the arts is very generous. For this reason, I do not want to use today’s debate to argue for more public money for the arts. Instead, I want to make a modest yet practical proposal for how a small amount of government money might be used to achieve a number of important national artistic, cultural and social objectives.
To cut to the chase, there is an immediate and well-documented case for at least one, and preferably more than one, specialist school where boys and girls of secondary school age can receive high-quality professional training in an art form which is particularly attractive to them—contemporary dance. I have come to this conclusion as a result of a performance I attended a few weeks ago of BalletBoyz, a contemporary dance company founded by two former members of the Royal Ballet. This extraordinary company, which combines high-quality live performances with TV films, has reached more than 10 million people since it was set up in 2000. It is worth mentioning that while BalletBoyz receives funding from the Arts Council, it has earned an equal sum from ticket sales and has received a slightly larger sum from other sources, including fees and general support from private donors.
What struck me most forcibly about that performance was the composition of the audience. Unlike the Wigmore Hall, which is my favourite venue in London for music, the audience that evening in Sadler’s Wells included large numbers of young people and members of the BAME community. Discussing this after the performance with Michael Nunn, the company’s dynamic director and joint founder, I learned that the BalletBoyz audiences on their tours outside London and overseas were similarly diverse and that many of those watching the performance were attending a live dance performance for the very first time. Michael Nunn also told me that the members of the company, too, come from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
This is not surprising because, when one comes to think about it, contemporary dance is perfect for athletic young men and women whose background makes classical ballet unfamiliar and unattractive but who simply love dancing. Sadly, however, there is at present no school in this country where young people of secondary school age—that is under 18—can learn this art form. There are good higher education colleges where contemporary dance is taught but there is no equivalent of the Royal Ballet School for those aged 11 to 12 who wish to pursue a career in contemporary dance at that early age. It is largely for this reason that of the 11 dancers in BalletBoyz, three were trained in Europe.
Contemporary dance is the most accessible art form for those who live in our inner cities and who come from the most deprived backgrounds. It opens an entirely new career opportunity to those who are not exposed to classical music or classical ballet but who love contemporary music and adore dancing. It is almost impossible to make a living as a dancer if one has not started training seriously until age 16 or 18. That is why I urge the Government to give serious consideration to establishing at least one specialist contemporary dance academy which would accept pupils of secondary school age. I say at least one such school because I believe that if we are to attract talented young people from across the country rather than focusing on one or two cities in some arbitrary way, we must establish a number of such institutions—for example, one in each of three or four of the largest metropolitan areas. These schools would open new career opportunities to hundreds of young people who have the talent for and the love of dancing but who would never consider classical ballet as something for them. These schools would significantly widen the pool of available trained contemporary dancers and thus enrich our national cultural life and enhance our already world-renowned reputation for this art form—an art form which can be enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds.
I believe that the contribution of these schools to our society would extend well beyond the arts. They would make a major contribution to fulfilling the Government’s commitment to building a country that works for everyone.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for initiating this debate. He is a true champion of the arts and I agreed with every word he said. I also thank my good friend Robert Henrit, who many—including the late John Lennon—regard to be the greatest drummer of the rock and roll era. He has given me valuable advice on how things used to be and how they have changed for the current generation.
The music industry is in trouble, simply because, by and large, the general public do not want to pay for music. The knock-on effect is that musicians and entertainers do not earn enough to keep going. People cannot afford to go to shows as they used to because of ticket prices, so they cherry-pick and do not expect to pay for music in a pub. Therefore, publicans do not want to pay for music at all, so you cannot blame young bands for doing gigs for nothing. This lack of bums on seats has meant that venues and some theatres are being forced to go dark for some of the week, or, worse still, to close completely.
It is now possible to make records on relatively unsophisticated laptop computers in a bedroom without the need to visit an expensive recording studio. This has meant, as we have heard, that our famous and cherished recording studios have been forced to close. It has also helped to devalue our music, because a band can make a record for the price of a few cups of coffee, not pay out as much as £100,000, as the Beatles did. The band does not need to get that money back any more, so if they are offered a pittance for their product they might as well just accept it.
Downloads have also devalued music. I understand that Pharrell Williams had 43 million plays of his record “Happy” but he earned and received only $2,700, because the going rate was less than $0.001 per download. Songwriters today are often paid pennies for successful tracks. As a result, for example, Nashville has lost more than 80% of its songwriters since 2000. The great British songwriter Russ Ballard tells me that his first royalties—I think it was for Hot Chocolate’s recording of his “So You Win Again”—resulted in a cheque for $99,000. He was very disappointed that it was not for £1,000 more, but he bought a house with it anyway. How times have changed.
Another issue that worries musicians, indeed artists across the entire sector—we have heard about it already—is Brexit. According to the Creative Industries Federation, 96% of its members support remaining in the EU. This is Gibraltarian proportions. The issue that exercises them most is freedom of movement. Robert Henrit described it to me thus: “In pre-EU days you needed permission to take away the livelihoods of the indigenous musical population in foreign countries—close neighbours or otherwise. If you were young and going to Germany in the early 1960s to play a minimum of nine shows a night—like the Beatles, me and countless others—and you were underage, you had to report to Bow Street magistrates’ court to formalise the affair. After the dreaded Brexit, what will be the situation regarding taking away jobs from the French, Germans or Italians? Will we be expected to pay a premium on our vehicle and other insurance policies every time we go there, as we were forced to do before we were in the EU?”.
Henrit goes on to say: “We musicians were simply too young and healthy prior to the EU, so never gave a thought to taking out insurance to cover our wellbeing. But what will happen to us now with the E111 card after we have been cast adrift from mainland Europe?”.
Henrit also talks about the trouble and hassle of crossing national borders. “Being musicians, we often ran late, and this trouble could take the form of prolonged interrogation and intense scrutiny of paperwork, to slow us up even more. Even though we were obliged to invest in a carnet in those days, if customs officers were feeling particularly malicious they would order us to unload our drums, amplifiers, guitars, Hammond organs and even stage suits, sometimes into the snow, as they ticked off the contents listed on that form. If they really did not like you they would dismantle the amplifiers or drums to bite-size pieces and leave you to put the equipment back together at your leisure. Oh how we laughed at their subtle sense of humour. The carnet was simply a list of the equipment you were exporting out of the UK, including drumsticks, and everything needed to be imported back within a year or there would be trouble. Fines would be levied and lots of duty would be payable. The carnet wasn’t exactly free and worse still you couldn’t easily add to it if you broke any of your instruments while you were away. The Who’s road crew must have had a difficult time since, for a while, it seems the band’s raison d’être was breaking as much equipment as possible. Speaking of fiscal issues, in those halcyon days it was easily possible to be taxed in the country we were working in and then again on the now considerably depleted ‘net’ earnings once we got home”.
Robert Henrit summarised the situation by saying, “It was something of a nightmare before we joined the EU. It was bliss after we joined. And I have a sneaking suspicion it will be a much more expensive nightmare after we leave”. So will the Government please address the issue of freedom of movement for our artists and their equipment?
Another of Russ Ballard’s songs, the anthem “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”, contains the words:
“If you wanna be a singer or play guitar
Man you’ve gotta sweat or you won’t get far”.
Somehow we need to get over to young people that the raison d’être for a musician is not making lots of money quickly, as Simon Cowell and his “The X Factor” friends would have us believe; it is about being in it for the long haul and enjoying it for as long as possible. Perhaps the Government could ask—and indeed remunerate—experienced musicians like Robert Henrit to go into schools and introduce youngsters to the real nuts and bolts of music.
My Lords, I am pleased to speak in this debate and, like others, I congratulate the noble Earl on bringing these matters to our attention, although not for the first time. I expect that during my time in your Lordships’ House I shall hear him bring them to our attention again.
In speaking at this moment it is not my intention to make the obvious points, as they have already been made. Of course the arts are important. Why do we have to say that? Of course they are underfunded. Why do we have to say that? Of course they are fragile at the moment. Space is difficult and so on, and we draw attention to that. Of course our museums need extra attention. I ran a museum until earlier this year, with two completely professional curators, 100 volunteers and a throughput of thousands and thousands of people per annum. I know what it is like to market. I know what it is like to change the exhibitions and attract new people or people who come a second time. So I do not want to state the obvious, because others who are far more qualified than I am have drawn attention to those facts.
We meet on a day when our news is dominated by two things that I heard about this morning. First, $400 million has been paid for a painting by Leonardo, and, secondly, fewer and fewer young people are going to football matches because they have been priced out. I speak as an Arsenal fan, and of course that is top of the range. While young people feel that it is too expensive to go to matches, the players they are going to watch, who get £200,000 per week, are pressing for half as much again. In a monetised economy where these aesthetic matters are quantified and measured in this way, we pitch our little debate into a context which we must not ignore.
A young Ghanean boy with good A-levels who did not want to go to university was asked, “Why, Kevin, don’t you want to go to university?”. The answer came back, “Because you’re going to tell me that I can become a barrister, a journalist, an accountant or something like that, but it takes time to do that. We know of five ways on the street to make quick money: crime, drugs, music, fame or football”. That was 15 years ago; he is now a tennis coach, although he did cut one or two CDs.
We must remember the context in which we are arguing this case. Fifty years ago, Jennie Lee was appointed by Harold Wilson as the first Minister for the Arts. She and Aneurin Bevan, her husband, were both the children of miners. How I remember working men’s institutes, the annual opera put on in the little town I came from, and all the other things done out of voluntary effort and by people who had sensed, somewhere, something that they would like to have a go at themselves. Jennie Lee was on to that. Is it not fantastic that she and Aneurin Bevan were husband and wife, one looking after a system for the bodily well-being and the other a system for the spiritual well-being of the nation?
Jennie Lee published a White Paper, like the one I have been reading in preparation for this debate, but she was also instrumental with Harold Wilson in setting up the Open University. My angle of view in this debate is from the bottom up, because all my life has been spent on the streets and in communities. If I have any expertise, or at least experience, that is where it is. However, I was a trustee for many years of Art and Christianity Enquiry, which I think we might know something about, and was involved in commissioning quite a number of works of art—and, with a Roman Catholic priest friend, several more. I could dilate on those; I see that your Lordships are a captive audience and I am very tempted. For all that, it is not in that area that I wish to make my point.
I must declare my interest. I am the chair of trustees of two secondary schools that come under the aegis of the Central Foundation Schools of London: a girls’ school in Tower Hamlets and a boys’ school in Islington. One of them specialises in drama and the other specialises in music. I have seen the boys’ school head teacher, because of the relationships that he has fostered at the Wellcome foundation at the Barbican, get his boys to exhibit their work in those prestigious places. Once a child has exhibited his efforts, he gets an idea of what the thing is all about. Similarly, I can never forget watching the girls at the Shaw Theatre on the Euston Road. Eighty-five per cent of the girls at our school are Muslim and wear the hijab. Of all the plays they might have done, they chose “Macbeth”—just imagine a macho play like that with Muslim girls. Their mothers were in the audience alongside me, whooping with joy when they saw their daughters coming on either as witches or as tyrants. It was most instructive.
We can do that because, as beneficiaries of the Dulwich Estate—we do not get as much as the big Dulwich schools, let me tell you; if I were a true subversive, I would want to do something about that—we have money that we can disburse to the two schools to help them foster their small group. We have just bought 10 pianos to help people learn to play, to form small groups and to help with the choral music and the rest of it. If you had seen our two schools at the Mansion House celebrating their 150th anniversary just last year, you would realise that you can tap into the energies and imagination of young people, and that is the prime task. It is important that this debate must relate to that. Of course we must have our institutions; of course we must take our kids to museums, artistic experiences, exhibitions, concerts and all the rest of it, because only when things happen like that can they relate what they are doing to a bigger and wider horizon.
I have been rather personal in this little speech of mine. Let me end personally too. I have a little grandson who is eight—or he will be in March, although he thinks he is now. I take him for a walk and he says to me, very simply, “Grandpa, you know I’m a chatterbox, but I’m going to be quiet for a minute or two and I don’t want you to be worried”. “Oh, Thomas, why?” “Well, you see, Grandpa, it’s like this. My head just at the moment is bursting with imagination”. We must have an educational system that is not merely utilitarian and functional. It is not only about measuring results through league tables and all the rest; it is about firing the imagination by helping a child to see the wider world.
This is my final remark. I used to live across the road from the grave of William Blake. I want all children to be able, as he put it, to see the universe in a wild flower, heaven in a grain of sand and eternity in a single hour, and to hold infinity in the palm of the hand. That is the challenge and our grand schemes must be seen to be organically related to the fundamental task of opening the minds of children and young people.
I thank the noble Earl for initiating this debate. He has been a champion of the arts for many years and we enjoy listening to his expertise and wisdom in this area. The arts, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts, make a huge contribution to our national life. I should like to assure the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and other noble Lords who have spoken that through their investment in the Arts Council, tax reliefs and capital investments, the Government are committed to supporting the continued development of this country’s arts and culture.
The 2015 spending review committed to continued Arts Council funding at its current level until 2020. Between 2015 and 2018, the Arts Council will invest £1.1 billion of public money from government in the arts as well as an estimated £700 million of lottery funding. Leading on from that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, mentioned in his speech about rural museums, the Mendoza review, an independent review of museums in England, gives the key priorities for the sector and commits an action plan to be published by September 2018, setting out how DCMS, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund will work together more strategically to use public funding more effectively to address problems. Of course, I am more than happy to meet the noble Viscount to talk further on these subjects.
An additional £170 million will be invested outside London from April 2018. The Government believe that local authorities are best placed to decide how to prioritise their spending. Many local authorities continue to invest in arts and culture. The Government have incentivised local authorities to support culture through programmes such as the Great Place Scheme. By investing in arts and culture, we are supporting our communities and our creativity, as well as our economy. This was clearly demonstrated in the recent report published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which found that, in 2015, the arts and culture industry grew by 10% and contributed £8.5 billion to the UK economy.
The performing arts are also a key part of the creative industry, and as part of the Government’s industrial strategy, we are working with the Creative Industries Council as it creates a creative industries sector deal. We strongly welcome interest in the great work of the council. However, all final decisions on membership are rightly made by the industry to ensure that it stays representative.
The Government are committed to supporting a wide range of art forms, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts. Orchestras and large musical groups are supported by orchestra tax relief, which commenced last year, as well as regular Arts Council funding. The Government’s theatre tax relief continues to be embraced by the sector and, in 2016-17, some £46 million was paid out to 1,570 productions. The Arts Council invests in theatre companies across the country, including the award-winning Sheffield Theatres among many others. It also invested £69 million in 2016-17 to support dance. The Government have provided £5 million to support the creation of a new dance hub in Birmingham.
The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, talked about dance education. In 2012, the Government and the Arts Council jointly created the National Youth Dance Company. It provides talented performers aged 16 to 19 with intensive training and performance opportunities led by world-leading choreographers. Over 80% of its former dancers have gone on to further dance studies, vocational training or professional work. In the summer of 2016, the company held 18 experience workshops and young people could engage with and audition for the NYDC.
Arts Council national portfolio organisations reached nearly 600,000 young people in 2015-16 through its outreach work, and the 2018-22 portfolio includes a strengthened offer for children and young people. In addition, the Creative Case for Diversity invests in programmes across the sector and holds to account the organisations that it invests in.
Both the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, raised concerns regarding visual arts. As has been said, it is important that there are studios and facilities that allow our artists to develop and create new work. The Arts Council continues to support visual and combined arts organisations, including the AA2A Ltd and East Street Arts, which play a proactive role in supporting artist-led spaces. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to buildings, and the Arts Council’s capacity funding supports resilience in the sector so that artists can have the right buildings and equipment to deliver their work. At the moment, the Government are exploring a range of issues with industry and planning to make it easier for spaces to operate.
Attendances of visual arts organisations in the Arts Council’s national portfolio have increased from 15 million in 2007 to 35 million, demonstrating a growing appetite for this art form. Of course, ensuring suitable remuneration and conditions for artists is a vital part of developing and showcasing great British talent. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, talked about income. As far as wages are concerned, Arts Council England’s policy is that individuals classed as workers must, in accordance with the law, be paid at least the full national minimum wage for their age range In its guidance for organisations applying to the national portfolio and grants for the arts, ACE makes clear its position on paying artists, interns and other workers fairly.
Education was mentioned by several noble Lords. Art and design and music are compulsory national curriculum subjects for five to 14 year-olds in maintained schools and, between 2012 and 2017, the Government have invested more than £580 million in a range of music and cultural education programmes. Pupils at state schools enter on average nine GCSEs, and taking the EBacc will mean taking seven GCSEs, which means that there will continue to be room for other subjects. However, this is a very important area and as the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said so eloquently, it is among this age group that we have enormous enthusiasm for it. It is essential that we tap in to this enthusiasm of the young. The Government continue to support music education hubs and cultural education programmes that are designed to improve access to the arts for all children, regardless of their background, and to develop talent across the country.
Many noble Lords mentioned Brexit and the worries that they have on this subject. On Brexit, DCMS will continue to work closely with all of its sectors to ensure that they have a voice as the country now prepares to leave the EU. To this end, the Secretary of State has held two round tables with leading art sector stakeholders to discuss Brexit. She will continue having these round tables, to ensure that the arts are considered when it comes to Brexit.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, referred to the digital arts. The Government have demonstrated their clear support for the use of digital within the arts through the digital cultural project, which is currently under way and bringing the worlds of the arts and technology closer together.
I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. Arts and culture remind us of where we have come from and where we are going. They bring incredible stories to life, help us to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Innovative, challenging and exciting arts and culture improves people’s lives, strengthens local communities, brings people together, benefits our economy and helps support local tourism. This country is a world leader in culture. It intends to stay that way and the Government are committed to supporting it.
Committee adjourned at 5.55 pm.