‘Step up before our entertainment scene is devastated’, Catherine warns Government

Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, has called on the Government to support Newcastle’s cultural and entertainment scene before it is irreversible devastated.

She was speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on support for businesses, following over half a million people signing petitions calling for extra assistance for industries including events, performing arts, nurseries, and aviation.

New research from Oxford Economics for the Creative Industries Federation has also warned of a ‘cultural catastrophe’ with the North East projected to lose 1800 creative jobs and endure a £400 million economic hit in 2020. The report warns the losses could be even greater when the Job Retention Scheme is withdrawn.1

Catherine has been contacted by many people in her Newcastle North constituency, working in a range of industries from performing arts, to music venues and dance studios.

One said: “Over the recent period of lockdown I have watched as theatre after theatre has closed down, unable to remain afloat due to the incredible lack of funding already present within the industry and have watched so many of my friends and colleagues being made redundant.”

Another constituent, a manager of a grassroots venue in Newcastle, has called for unused business support grants to be redirected to the sector. He said:

“Support the release of enough of this unspent economic war-chest to ensure that musicians have somewhere to perform once the Covid crisis is finally behind us.”

The performing arts and creative industries have been one of the worst hit by this crisis, with many freelancing performers seeing their business drying up overnight and venues now on the risk of closure.

While pubs, bars and restaurants can reopen from 4th July, a ban on live performances will remain.

Many venues also need to reach capacity levels of as high as 80% in order breakeven, particularly smaller venues, which is impossible with social distancing.

Labour is calling for the Government to provide a sector specific support package for the cultural sector; theatres, music, festivals, other live performance venues, but also tourism and hospitality sectors which are inextricably linked.

Highlighting the challenges faced by businesses and performers in Newcastle, in the House of Commons Catherine said:

“I turn to the many smaller businesses in my constituency that face so much uncertainty about their future. We have a world-leading performing arts sector, which has been brought to its knees by this crisis. We could see devastation of the cultural and entertainment scene in so many communities.

“So many venues do not know when they will be able to reopen and are fighting for survival. I was contacted by a dance school that just wants to know when it might be able to reopen. We have seen what has happened to tourism businesses, self-employed people—I could go on; there are so many.

“As Britain cautiously emerges from lockdown and some level of normal returns, we cannot allow those who have lost out most from this crisis to continue to be forgotten. We must do everything we can to make sure that as many as possible get through this crisis and continue to provide their services in the future.”