16 July 2020
Oldham & Saddleworth Green Party says that the arts are vital for us all. Government support must reach across the whole sector and to all workers.
The arts have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and will be massively impacted for months to come. Theatres and galleries cannot open, live music events stopped, film, TV and radio productions severely disrupted. Across the UK venues are shutting permanently, staff are being made redundant and freelancers are unable to find contracts. In Oldham we have seen the Whit Friday Band Contests cancelled, a big loss musically and socially, and also financially for the local community. Will the Coliseum have the pantomime this year? But also when will all its activities for young people, adults and community groups restart?
The economic importance of the arts too often goes unrecognised. Creative and cultural organisations in the UK employ 700,000 people and the sector is worth £111.7 billion to the economy according to government statistics published in February this year, more than UK Life Sciences, Aerospace and Automotive sectors combined.
Greater Manchester has one of the largest creative and cultural sectors outside of London. We have seen parts of the BBC move to Salford, the development of the Imperial War Museum North and The Lowry, venues in our towns refurbished and local music festivals established, also a diverse range of small community based arts organisations and projects. All these support a whole infrastructure of other smaller businesses across a wide range of jobs.
It is not just the economic contribution of the arts that is vital. Covid-19 has shown that the arts are essential for our mental health and wellbeing. Music, drama, art, dance, whether through TV, radio or online, have been a lifeline: lifting spirits, combating social isolation, helping us feel connected and belonging. But the lockdown has also shown what we gain from being present at or taking part in live performances.
We face losing a whole cultural landscape with many people from theatre staff to digital marketing to animators to musicians losing their livelihoods, with the venues and events disappearing. Overdue, the government’s recently announced support must help the arts in all its forms across the country. (1) It must not save the big, famous organisations at the expense of local community based groups and events. Above all, it should not just prop up venues, help must also reach the creative workers, so many of whom are freelancers, to ensure they can survive to get things up and running again.
(1) Public funding for the arts Under the austerity policies of the last 10 years public funding of the arts has been greatly reduced. Government spending was cut by over 35% with arts organisations told that they needed to be self financing. Government cuts to local authorities forced them to cut arts funding. This has made the impact of Covid-19 crisis on the arts far worse.
The Green Party believes that the state has a vital financial role to play in supporting and maintaining artistic activity in society on an ongoing basis. See our policies on Culture, Media and Sport: https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/culture,-media-and-sports.html