Bishop of Derby speaks of positive impact of sacred music to UK tourism

“I think our musical heritage is a key ingredient for encouraging international tourism. In an age of terror and despair, we have a rich gift to offer and we must do all we can to make it available and to secure its sustainability.”

On 11th July 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in Lord Storey’s take-note debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to support and promote the impact of music upon tourism. The Bishop spoke of the many local musical events that deserved to be highlighted in tourism material, including those in English cathedrals and churches and called for greater Government support for such events and traditions.

Bishop of DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned the iconic Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park in 1969. Perhaps I should put on record the fact that I was there.

As we have just heard, music is not only important but a much underrated offer that we make to the rest of the world through tourism. When people come here for music tourism, they engage in making community and in being joined with others in a common culture through hearing a common language. Such things are very important for us to offer across the world as well as across the regions in this country. It is important that we do not just measure its significance in terms of economic impact, although that is important, but that we recognise a cultural, human hinterland that is enriched from Plato onwards and we must be proud of it and contribute to it.

The VisitBritain document, Delivering a Golden Legacy, identifies four principles to encourage this kind of tourism. The first is to recognise our international image, which is about heritage, arts and music—as the noble Lord, Lord Black, mentioned. The second is to develop an overall product so that performance, hotels, shopping and local businesses are all connected. The third is to be ambitious in our invitation and the variety that we offer. Fourthly, tourism needs to be embedded in other strategies for other sectors. Many noble Lords have spoken in this debate to illustrate some of those principles.

The UK Music report, Destination: Music, starts, as did the noble Lord, Lord Storey, in his speech, with Glastonbury. The research is based on concerts and events of 5,000 people or more. That is very important, but I want, in just a few brief words, to go to two other areas which fall below the radar of that kind of scale but which show the importance of music and culture for tourism.

They both come from the east Midlands, which is where I operate and which has the exact national average proportion of music tourists—that is, 5% of the tourist mix. We need to increase that of course. The first area is the story of the Buxton Opera House and the Buxton Festival. If any noble Lords are looking for some wonderful entertainment this weekend, I can tell them that the Buxton Festival is still in operation—you can go to its website. In 1976, a fairly decrepit building with “Opera House” over its door was on the verge of being turned into a cinema. Three years later, by 1979, local residents together with the Royal Northern College of Music and the Welsh National Opera—contacts in those places—opened the first Buxton Festival. It now has a turnover of £1.4 million and receives only 10% of its income from grants. I want to emphasise that, because many people look at the arts, especially music, and think that it needs very heavy subsidy. In fact, a mere 10% of the building’s running costs enable a turnover of £2 million into the local economy. We are not asking a great deal, but strategic investment can create such opportunities locally for music tourism to flourish. The Buxton Festival works through a partnership between local enterprise, VisitEngland, Visit Peak District and local businesses.

Of course, the opera house has to be very nimble in what it offers because it needs to run all year. It runs a programme that includes everything from Abba tribute concerts to opera and all the things in between. It has to be nimble and offer a very catholic range of music.

I have told this story because it has moved from 1979 to 2015, which is the projected opening date for the Buxton Crescent and spa hotel—a crescent that has been carefully restored and will become a hotel destination for international tourists in that part of England in 2015. It has taken all that time, from 1979 to 2015, to establish a festival, to establish international links and for there to be a demand to come and stay in that kind of quality of accommodation. I therefore urge the Government to take seriously not only the regions and the small scale but the need for secure and sustained support for such incremental growth that will be the backbone of a national policy for music tourism.

The second area that I want to mention but which, again, does not feature in the most recent report of UK Music is of course—and you would expect me to say this from these Benches—church music and especially cathedral music. We have recently launched in Derbyshire a diocesan tourism website, because churches are a key part of the fabric of the tourism offer and we need to be organised to present them attractively. A key bit of that is music, because churches are among the few places that you can go where there will be a guarantee of music of some sort or other. Just this last weekend, in the parish of New Mills, we have had a festival of choirs—five choirs making the festival over the weekend. On the same weekend, in a parish called Fairfield, there was a five-day music festival with blues, the vicar getting together an impromptu jamming band and all kinds of music to bring people in. Our cathedral, like others, has an extensive programme of concerts, organ recitals and lunchtime events.

I go to a lot of these things and I spent 10 years working in a cathedral. Something that strikes me all the time is that when one goes to the door after a concert, particularly of the English choral tradition, it is people from overseas who want to say how amazing that kind of music is. It is something they rarely experience live in other cultures. The English choral tradition and English church music are a great jewel in our musical armoury and we need to ensure, as part of a tourist offer, that we can make them available and support them in small ways. That 10% investment in the Buxton Festival is an example of how small support can create stability, incremental growth and an attractive offer.

I invite the Minister to comment not just on the large-scale music offer to tourists but on how the Government can encourage support for smaller-scale events such as the Buxton Festival and for the English choral tradition and English church music, something that is unique and right at the heart of how we are perceived internationally in terms of heritage, art and music culture. How can we make that a key part of what we offer? I want to finish by reiterating that I think our musical heritage is a key ingredient for encouraging international tourism. In an age of terror and despair, we have a rich gift to offer and we must do all we can to make it available and to secure its sustainability.

Baroness Northover (Government response): …The right reverend Prelate is right to emphasise the unique contribution this country has made to church and cathedral music. In this debate—a music fest, as the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, put it—we have seen how diverse our music heritage and current activities are. I can assure noble Lords of our awareness of this. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, the Arts Council has invested more than £1.25 million in the Benjamin Britten centenary celebrations. I note that several noble Lords mentioned Aldeburgh…


%d bloggers like this: