The Lord Archbishop of York: My question is about the variability of access. I think we all recognise that the statistics quoted are going the wrong way. What we observe particularly is that it is far worse in some parts of the country than others. That is something I particularly observe in the north, where I serve. The DCMS Committee’s report last year spoke about how the creative industries themselves are saying that there is a shortage of the skills that we need. What is being done about this and, particularly, how do we know about the situation? In about 2014, Ofsted changed the way its inspections investigated the arts. For instance, dance was looked at as part of PE. Does the Minister think that this lack of joined-up thinking has had an impact on where we are now and, in particular, on the way that some parts of the country are suffering much more than others?
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on support for the performing arts sector in the UK on 30th March 2023, advocating for a long term settlement of grants to support the arts and emphasising the cultural and social value of the arts sector:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, for securing this debate and share the concerns of many other noble Lords about the challenges facing BBC musicians and the need to support small venues and touring programmes. The case has been made eloquently.
I am also grateful for the Library briefing, but I note that it begins—as has already been quoted—
“In 2022 music, performance and visual arts contributed an estimated £11.5bn to the UK economy.”
Have we really reached the point where we primarily describe the arts by the financial contribution that they make? Can we not imagine a world where the House of Lords Library produces briefings which say that, in the past year, 39,000 people had their minds opened and changed because of the plays they saw at the National Theatre; scores of people entered into the grim reality of migrants because they went to something at the National Theatre and then came back and signed up to some campaigning organisation to support them; and 40,000 people felt that they touched eternity in that breathtaking silence at the end of the Rachmaninoff “Vespers”? Can we not somehow talk about enriching the human soul? That is surely what it is about. We cannot and must not measure the performing arts primarily in financial terms but in the way that they expand our imaginations, unlock our sympathies and confront us with alternative realities that take us out of our comfort zones and demand that we engage with them.
The Bishop of Worcester asked a question about government commitment to arts education during a debate on data, digital, and financial literacy in schools on 14th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, recently I had the privilege of serving on your Lordships’ Communications Committee. What came through consistently in our inquiry into the effects of technology on the creative industries was the need for creative and artistic literacy as well as digital literacy—we need STEAM, not just STEM. I speak as a former scientist deeply committed to science and technology. Does the Minister agree and, if so, what can the Government do to enable that, given their reluctance to review the national curriculum and prioritise arts more?
The Bishop of Coventry received the following written answer on 5th September 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure sufficient funding for arts and humanities subjects in higher education in the (1) short, and (2) long, term; and what assessment they have made of (a) the potential shortfall in funding after the cessation of funding from the European Research Council ceases, and (b) general pressures on funding for arts and humanities subjects in higher education.
On 7th July 2022 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Earl of Clancarty, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the ability of musicians and other creative professionals from the United Kingdom to work and tour in the European Union.”
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, like others, I thank the noble Earl for bringing us this debate. Noble Lords would expect a Bishop of Manchester to be passionate about music. Our vibrant popular and contemporary music scene is central to our local economy. The Royal Northern College of Music is one of our universities and we also have the leading music school for the north of England in Chetham’s, whose campus is next door to my cathedral and provides many of our choristers. We recently dedicated a brand-new, £2 million cathedral organ. It was the donation of a single—as it happens, Jewish—businessman, Sir Norman Stoller. Our music matters to us in Manchester. We invest in it and in the diverse young people developing their skills in it. It is a great force for levelling up.
On 28th April 2022 MPs asked Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, about parish ministry, freedom of religion & belief, affordable and sustainable housing, illegal migrant crossings in the Channel, families parenting and marriage, candidates entering Holy Orders, and supporting arts and culture. A transcript is below.
On 15th December the Bishop of Southwark asked a question during exchanges on the the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and arts sectors:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark [V]: My Lords, will the Minister please comment on what is being done to support the huge supply chain of talent, materials and suppliers for live events and performances?
As the Minister is doubtless aware, there are decades of expertise within these sectors, which also support film production, television and festivals—everything from catering to lighting, scenery, special effects, equipment hire, publicity and venue hire. These are all in danger of being wiped out and will be extremely difficult to re-establish if businesses and freelancers are not supported at this stage.
On 22nd September 2020 Members of the House of Lords asked questions of Government on support for diversity in the creative industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd John Inge, asked a question:
On 3rd March 2020 The Earl of Clancarty asked the Government “what steps they are taking to improve the provision of arts and cultural services at (1) local, and (2) regional, level.” The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd John Inge, asked a follow-up question:
The Lords put questions to Government today on arts & cultural services at local & regional level. @BishopWorcester raised concerns about the devaluing of arts, culture & religion in the education system. pic.twitter.com/EEgRzU5BPg
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, while the provision of arts and cultural services by local authorities is clearly crucial to our society’s well-being, does the Minister share the frustration felt by many of us at the increasingly utilitarian approach taken by schools and further and higher education, which often devalues arts and culture at a time when we know less about what skills will be required in the workplace of the future but we know that the sort of broad vision provided by arts and culture—and, perhaps, religion—will be invaluable? Continue reading “Bishop of Worcester raises concern about devaluing of arts, culture and religion in education system”
On 24th June 2019 Lord Black of Brentwood asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address the decline in the number of students taking music A-level”. The Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner, asked a follow-up question:
Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the decline in music A-level is part of a broader problem of social inequality in access to music itself and music education? Is it not time for the Government to reassess the persistent and growing evidence of the damaging effect of EBacc and the contribution of music through other routes such as BTEC in broadening access to our leading conservatoires, and to adjust the disproportionate bursary funding that allows £9,000 to music graduates but up to £32,000 to graduates in other subjects, in spite of recognition that music is vital to sustaining the creative industries in our country?
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