Performers Alliance Reception Speech

Thank you for welcoming me to your reception this year – as always, it is a pleasure to join so many people who work in the Creative Industries.

It was inspiring to hear from Tim, Abby and Andy and I will reflect on what they have said.
A year ago I attended this reception when I had only been in the job for a few weeks.
I left inspired by the passion and dedication that the people in this room have for the work that they do.
Before I became an MP, I was a soldier.
When first entering parliament the differences between my old and new job were apparent, every day.
But then I was fortunate to be given the Culture brief.
Now some people have commented on whether a former soldier can be “cultured” – not all comments have been favourable....!
But I have to say that there are perhaps more similarities than you might expect between my previous role and my current one.
Firstly, to be a soldier –to be a musician, a performer – you have to have – in the words of the late, great Roy Castle: “dedication is what you need”.
These careers are life choices; whether that’s putting in the hours to excel at a musical instrument, or going on tour.
Secondly, you have to think creatively in some tricky situations.
And thirdly, I’ve come to realise that both soldiers and those working in the creative industries – have a great aptitude for sniffing out bullshit!
I don’t need to tell you that the Creative Industries is the second largest sector of the UK economy and that music is a key element of that success.
So I’m delighted to see so many members of the Musicians Union here today to launch their report – ‘The working musician’.
We are world renowned for our acts and musicians from Ed Sheeran to Emeli Sandé, Olly Murs to Jessie J.
UK music exports exceed £17bn every year, and we account for more than 10% 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 know that 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 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 huge 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.
In my constituency of Barnsley a favourite activity for many families will be to attend one of the concerts of the brass bands we have in the area – including the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery band.
And almost 300 children in the town, sing with the brilliant Barnsley Youth Choir.
So I know the value that young people get from creative opportunities:
Singing in a choir
Learning to play a musical instrument
Writing a poem or story
Appearing in the school play – which my son is doing tomorrow – I never knew there were so many aliens in the nativity!!
The confidence, discipline, team work and development: both academic and social that young people get from these opportunities is incredibly important. Michael Gove take note.
But despite this success, the music industry can be wrought with hurdles for those wishing to work in it.
I was speaking to a young guy a couple of weeks ago who is going to be a huge success – he, and his other group members, have recently launched their first album to much acclaim, they now regularly appear on TV, and are touring the country.
Whilst he was struggling to make it as an artist he told me that he would often be asked, including by his father;
“When are you going to get a proper job”?
For an industry that offers so much, there is sometimes not enough patience and support for those people aspiring to make a living.
The research carried out and launched by the Musicians Union today highlights this:
Over 60% of musicians reported working for free in the past 12 months.
Only 35% pay into a pension scheme.
And over half earned less than £20,000 last year.
I believe this is unacceptable.
So, the Labour DCMS team are working on a 5 point plan for the Creative Industries.
We believe that there must be a framework in place to ensure that a career in the Creative Industries is stable and secure.
For an industry that delivers so much, there should be no difference in terms of security, than for a young person wanting to become an architect, a doctor or an engineer.
So our team are looking at the following areas to achieve this;
First, we need to nurture Creative Skills and Education.
We are very concerned about the Government’s plans for the EBacc. Yes, maths, English and Science are important but so are the creative subjects and creative learning.
Michael Gove take note (again)!
Second, we should be continuing to Build our International Reputation. As countries like Brazil, India, China and Russia become major global players, we need to ensure that British artists remain world leaders in a global market.
Third, we need to Protect our Creative Industries. We have an 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 strand of this objective.
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, we need to Invest in our Creative Industries – Access to Finance: we are actively looking for innovative ways to fund new creative businesses.
My determination is that we have an integrated approach. So that music – the Creative Industries are not just in a silo at the DCMS.
That it will be integrated across our teams in education, business and the treasury so that we put YOU at the heart of our business, economic and cultural agenda.
Our economy needs jobs and growth.
The Creative industries are growing faster than the rest of the economy, and they must be at the heart of our policy making.
So thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
As we look forward to 2013, now really is the time;
yes to celebrate
but more importantly to support the achievement of the creative industries here at home and abroad.

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