On Tour

Today I began my tour of the regions in order to visit our cultural and creative organisations outside of the Capital. I have been clear since taking on my role that we should be proud of the arts and culture throughout our country, and also recognise the potential for growth and jobs from the creative industries in every corner of Britain.

I started my tour by going into the south west, a region with a wide array of creativity, culture and art. The South West has been providing inspiration for centuries from Jane Austen to Banksy. Today there are people across the region working to pioneer new ideas in creativity and today I got just a flavour of the issues facing them, and also the potential they see in this region.

This morning the first stop was the Phoenix Centre in Exeter which is a fantastic centre for creativity in the heart of Exeter. Over the last few years it has flourished into a hub of innovation and ideas for people of all ages to socialise, learn new skills or set up a new creative industry.

One of their many festivals is Animated Exeter, the leading festival for animation in the South West. It has provided young people in Exeter with a fantastic base to learn new skills, whether aged three or twenty three, any young person can use the festival to develop first-class animation skills.

Animation is increasingly under threat in this country as business climates elsewhere in the world become more competitive. British icons such as Bob the Builder, Shaun the Sheep and Peppa Pig are leaving, or contemplating doing so. Animated Exeter gives those young people the platform they need to succeed in the Industry, and it is the Government's job to ensure that Britain remains a world leader and the jobs are available.

After Animated Exeter, I has a quick interview with Phonic FM, the radio station which has sprung from Exeter's Creativity. Next on the schedule was a visit to the Sound Gallery which uses free exhibitions, events and workshops to introduce young people across the town to music and also offer teachers the chance to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in the sector by offering online resources.
The passion of the staff, and volunteers, demonstrated how important music is to children, and how much it can help a child develop. At the current time we are awaiting the Government's announcement of music in education - I hope they recognise this too.

 Animated Exeter and the Sound Gallery are products of Labour investment in the creative economy, but they also symbolise the appetite for creativity that exists across Britain.

 From Exeter, I travelled to Bristol and to visit the Watershed Media Centre. The Watershed project was inspirational as it was a derelict building transformed into the cultural heart of the City. The atmosphere it promotes is one of innovation and openness where ideas are debated and developed. It is open to everyone  and I would certainly recommend it.

During my visit I met with leading figures from the arts in the South West who highlighted the importance the arts play in day to day life. First-class museums, galleries, theatre, animation, design and music, have become part of the fabric of our villages, towns and cities over the last decade. It is vital that the Government work with these organisations instead of implementing the deepest cuts we have seen in generations.

My day ended with an evening visit to the Bristol Old Vic. The theatre is currently being refurbished so we donned hard hats and boots to see the heart of the theatre. The builders have recovered much of the original stage and layout. It is a treasure in the South West and will be tremendous to visit when it opens next summer.

It is imperative that Ministers get out to regions across Britain and that we talk to people that are at the heart of the creative economy and arts world. The ideas I heard today will inform my thinking over the next few months and I will be sharing more of this with you.
But it was just the start. I will be visiting every region in England over the next few months and continuing to engage with industry experts so that Labour is involved in a truly national dialogue.