Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
It is a pleasure to be here in Leeds, and to meet so many people from your important Association.
The Association of British Orchestras, since it was formed in 1947, has been representing musicians up and down the country from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
Your growth over the past 20 years in particular is a testament to the cultural and musical opportunities you provide across Britain.
Today I want to talk to you about these opportunities and how I can work with you to create a vision for the Britain of the future.
A couple of weeks ago I attended an orchestral concert performed by the Centre for Young Musicians. It was the first time I’d been to see this group of young people play and I was struck by two points:
Firstly, the passion and skill with which these young people play.
Now, I wouldn’t claim to be a classical connoisseur but a musical jaunt from Strauss to HK Gruber’s Frankenstein must have required a huge amount of talent, creative agility and determination – and especially just to have learnt it over the Christmas holidays!
Despite the obvious hard work, every single young person on that stage played with enthusiasm and passion.
I’m told about half will go on to study music at university, and further, but for each person they now have a skill and passion which they’ll retain throughout their lives due to that orchestra.
The second point was that through the culmination of so many individual talents, there became a collective identity – that of the orchestra.
A piece of music which would have sounded very different on its own – as it does when my son practices his violin at home, at 6am on a Sunday morning! – became alive and incredibly emotive when played together as a collective.
As a politician, it was a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when people work together.
Music in this country has a strong heritage and I’m proud to be the Shadow Minister representing such a vibrant, creative and diverse sector – a sector in which we are uniquely talented.
Our music reaches around the world; broadcasting our shared heritage, history and stories.
We are world renowned for our class acts and musicians from the Proms to Dizzee Rascal, Emeli Sande to our West End musicals.
UK music exports exceed £17bn every year, and we account for approximately 12% of global sales with UK consumers buying more music per person than anywhere else in the world – we are a nation of music lovers.
But I believe our love of music goes much, much deeper than the seam of phenomenal talent we have at the more high profile end of the industry.
In 2011, British orchestras – the people in this room – played to over 4.18 million people in the UK and toured 39 different countries.
Our summers are now characterised by the “festival season” and a proliferation of different acts and music genres playing to crowds – rain or shine.
And our theatre sales brought in £67m last year as overseas visitors flocked to see Billy Elliot, Wicked, Grease and many more.
And I don’t even need to look that far.
In Barnsley, where I am an MP, we are proud to have the Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band which sprang up from the mining community of 1917; for men who wanted to use their hands and talent for something other than hewing coal.
Their story has been captured in the film “Brassed Off” – it’s an inspiring snapshot of working men and women coming together to express themselves, their culture and heritage.
I’m sure that each person in this room will know of similar stories and examples.
But despite this success, our cultural sector, including our musical heritage, is currently facing numerous challenges.
One of my aspirations as Shadow Culture Minister is to ensure that every child – the future generation – has the opportunity to unlock their potential both in, and outside of, school.
An opportunity with twin aims: an economic purpose to ensure young people are well prepared for a modern world of work that values transferable skills as well as core knowledge.
And a moral purpose to ensure young people are able to develop their attributes to become active individuals who are able to contribute to the wellbeing of our communities – socially and culturally.
I was speaking to a young man – a musician – a couple of weeks ago who is now a huge success –
he, and his other group members, have recently launched their first album to much acclaim, and now regularly appear on television, and are touring the country.
Whilst he was struggling to make it into the “big time” he told me that he would often be asked “when are you going to get a proper job”?
This old-fashioned attitude is the same that governs Michael Gove as he fails to recognise the importance of creative subjects and skills in a child’s development.
Whether a child goes on to become a musician, a film maker, fashion designer or whatever he or she chooses, should not be decided before they even go to school by a narrow curriculum –
their choice of career should be carefully chiselled out from a diverse, challenging and creative syllabus which teaches them a range of skills and core knowledge.
I believe that the Government’s proposed English Baccalaureate does the opposite of this.
As Kevin Brennan, the Shadow Education Minister has said –
“They will be providing our children with an analogue education in a digital world.”
Instead of ensuring that our children are “work ready” and “life ready”, for many it will rule out jobs in sectors such as the creative industries as there is no value placed on subjects such as art, drama, music and design.
The latest figures available show that 15% of schools have dropped one or more arts subjects since the EBacc was introduced.
It’s no wonder that Nicolas Serota, the director of the Tate has warned that “The UK's leading edge in creativity may be lost”.
And Liz Forgan was right to warn last week in her farewell lecture, that Michael Gove is "robbing a generation of its birthright and failing in the duty we all have to continue our culture".
I want to also reflect for a moment on the value of a good music teacher.
I know a music teacher – I’ll call her Mrs Smith.
Mrs Smith has a passionate belief in the ability of music to transform lives.
Mrs Smith transmits this passion to her pupils and tells me about the huge benefit kids get from it.
Whether it’s the development of their characters, their confidence, the ability to work as part of a team, the discipline required, the proven link to academic attainment.
Recently, Mrs Smith took her school orchestra to play at the Royal Albert Hall and in so doing provided those children with an opportunity and an experience that they will never forget.
That is the power of music.
I call her Mrs Smith because she is: Mrs Kathryn Smith, from Barnsley.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if instead of making teachers of creative subjects feel undervalued, we ensured that Mrs Smiths were at the heart of every school?
And what about outside of school?
I am proud that the last Labour Government introduced free access to museums and galleries; that we started Creative Partnerships and that more children than ever before were taking part in more cultural activities than ever before.
It was promising that in 2010/11, this Government asked Darren Henley to direct his vast amount of experience and knowledge into a Review of Music Education and Cultural Education.
But what has happened since these excellent reports were published?
Funding for the music hubs has been cut by a third.
Creative Partnerships have ceased.
The link to schools has been undermined by the EBacc.
And where is the promised plan in response to the Cultural Education Review?
There are, of course, fantastic examples of cultural education in our country. In Newham, the “Every Childs a Musician” Scheme ensures that every young person in year 5, across 62 schools, has the chance to learn a musical instrument at no cost to parents for at least a year.
In my town we have the Barnsley Youth Choir which provides opportunities for young people from deprived backgrounds, helping to give them focus and nurture aspiration.
And here, on our doorstep today, is the Leeds Youth Orchestra which works with young people aged under 19 and enables them to tour across the UK and Europe.
But despite these beacons of excellence I do not see any concerted drive by the Government to ensure that these examples are the norm, rather than the exception.
I believe their strategy, such as it is, is to cut, and run.
So in times of austerity difficult decisions need to be made – demand often grows as resources become more scarce.
In that climate, Governments often need to make difficult decisions and everyone needs to do their fair share.
But, throughout these times of austerity, it is more important than ever for Governments to set out a road map for their country’s future.
Every day politicians should ask themselves – what do we want our country to look like? What kind of society do we want to live in? What is our vision?
We want a healthy economy of course.
But I also believe we want healthy individuals living in healthy communities.
I believe that our cultural sector – our concert halls, galleries, museums, arts organisations, libraries, theatres, cinemas, dance studios – play a major part in all three of these objectives.
It contributes to a Healthy Economy.
The cultural sector is a key driver for jobs and growth throughout Britain.
It is the foundation and the imagination-frame of the creative industries which account for almost 3% of the UK economy and provide over 1.5 million jobs.
‘Visit Britain’ consistently sites cultural and heritage attractions as the main reason to visit. Each year there are over 42 million visits to major museums and galleries and our west end shows attract millions of people each year for our story telling and music.
The combined contribution of tourism and the creative industries is 7% of the UK economy – 7%.
It contributes to healthy communities.
In the last decade, culture has revitalised our grey city and town centres and as the cultural scene has developed, so too have the jobs and social well-being of people who live there.
From Liverpool to Nottingham, Margate to Bristol; culture has transformed our urban centres.
And, it contributes to healthy individuals.
Nowadays, over 70% of people engage with the arts during the year – the majority of these at a live music event. It is a true reflection of the way we spend our time with our friends and family.
So, given its huge contribution, it is worrying that the cultural sector is under a huge amount of pressure as it suffers:
Cuts to local authority budgets, often in the most deprived cities and towns – Blackpool, Hastings, Middlesbrough, Liverpool.
Cuts to the Arts Council budget of 30% - hitting arts organisations across the country.
And a misplaced Government understanding of the reliance these organisations can place in philanthropy, certainly in the short term.
I believe that these effectively result in a triple-whammy for the cultural sector which will have severe consequences unless the Government provides much needed direction.
I would like to ask the Government – where is the vision?
What do you want our country to look like in 10 years?
My answer, sadly, arrived when they produced the Mid-Term Review document 3 weeks ago.
On page 41 – you’ll find it towards the back – there were 5 pledges from Maria Miller.
And not one of them referred to the arts, or culture.
She quite simply dropped the ‘C’ from DCMS.
Understandably, there has recently been an outcry in the cultural sector as the cumulative effect of bad policy choices start to bite.
Made all the worse by an attitude from the Secretary of State which effectively claims it is “crying wolf”.
The Labour Party is consulting across the Arts and Cultural sector and is building the case across our Shadow team.
My determination is that we in the Labour Party have a totally integrated approach. So that music and culture is not just in a silo at the DCMS.
That it will be integrated across our teams in Education, Communities and Local Government, Business and the Treasury so that we put music and the arts at the heart of our cultural, business and economic agenda.
The Labour Party is clear that we need a Healthy Economy, Healthy Communities and Healthy Individuals.
We believe in a One Nation Britain – a society in which everyone plays their part and there is a collective endeavour – much like individual musicians working together to produce a wonderful piece of music as an orchestra.
That is why we are meeting with people from across the cultural sector to ask what we can do in opposition.
We are looking at alternative ways to support the arts and culture, and are working closely with the Education team to ensure that even in these dark times our young people have a bright future.
And we are also working on a 5 point plan directly in relation to the Creative Industries;
First, as I have already spoken about, we need to nurture Creative Skills and Education.
Second, we should be Building our International Reputation. As Brazil, India, China and Russia continue to become major players, we want to ensure that British artists remain world leaders and are at the cutting edge of the emerging world economy.
Third, we need to Protect our Creative Industries. We have a strong IP framework but this needs to continue to evolve. Our industries need to be at the cutting edge of innovation, and protecting creative talent is a key plank of this target.
Fourth, A Regional Strategy for the Creative Industries is a must – so that we can cultivate our creative dexterity outside of London and ensure that there are opportunities available in every town and city.
Fifth, and lastly, we need to Invest in our Creative Industries – we are actively looking for new and innovative ways to fund new artists and organisations.
I believe in the contribution that the arts and culture make to our lives. It is as important for our economy as it is for diverse and fair communities.
It is a reflection of the type of society we want to live in and is indicative of where we spend time with our families and friends, what we want our city and town centres to look like and where we work.
In my role, I want to confront the challenges which have been presented by this Government and work towards a cultural sector which is instrumental to a Healthy Economy, Healthy Communities and Healthy Individuals. I want us to build a vision where culture is recognised for the vital part it plays in our lives.
I look forward to working with you to achieve that.