|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for raising such an important matter at such a critical time. There is an undoubted growing interest in the relationship between culture and its capacity to stimulate social and economic growth. Urban regeneration can and is taking place in many areas of Britain, underpinned and sustained through harnessing creative talent.
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1333
This debate is a welcome opportunity to celebrate the success and notoriety that we currently enjoy as a direct result of the endeavours of our nation's inspirational creators and artists, and their contribution to urban regeneration. It also gives me the chance to emphasise the amazing contribution made by the arts to educational opportunities. We must thank the voluntary sector for the enormous contribution it makes. Indeed, the many voluntary groups going into schools, providing more music and drama, must be encouraged and not stifled by needless regulation and political correctness.
I want to highlight some areas where more can be done to foster even greater and more diverse creativity, as well as where recent legislation has put obstacles in the path of regeneration. Throughout my last three years on the DCMS brief, I have taken the opportunity to voice my thoughts and concerns relating to how we encourage, develop and, most important, protect creators and their rights. I think that this is a key point that must not be missed in the course of the debate. Not only must we seek to encourage greater contributions from the arts, we must also strive to ensure that creators can trust and rely on solid protection for the fruits of their labour. It is the solid protection of creators' rights that makes today's debate so timely and relevant to me personally, as next week in an Unstarred Question in the House I will be addressing the very issue of how we may better protect the intellectual property rights of our talented individuals.
That said, in today's debate I want to focus on just a few recent developments which may serve to challenge the cultural industries but, if handled properly, could in my view lead to greater opportunities to access and exploit the benefits of the wider UK audienceby that I mean contributing to building human and social capital, and thereby our nation's quality of life. I speak mainly in relation to the recent additions of the Gambling and Licensing Acts to the statute book, and the changes being made in broadcasting to focus on a more regional agenda.
My first point relates to the practical implications of the new licensing regulations for many of our pubs and other entertainment venues. The Licensing Act is in the process of making significant changes to licensing schemes for entertainment venues, and I believe strongly that this will impact on the ability of many of our nation's musicians to contribute to urban regeneration. IfI stress thisthese changes are handled in the right way, they can enhance regeneration. Let me explain. The new licensing regulations will have an obvious knock-on effect for musicians who perform in our pubs and our clubs right across the country.
Much has been made of the well publicised 24-hour drinking aspects that the new licences may eventually bring into existence. But what is most at stake and of key importance here to our artists is a general awareness of the fundamental requirements of the new licences. In particular, the Musicians' Union has expressed concern that venue owners are simply unaware of the obligations placed on them under changes to the licensing law which requires them to
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1334
have filed their new licence applications by 6 August this year. Failure to do so means increased expense, complexity and delay. As John Smith, the general secretary of the Musicians' Union has said:
"There is a real danger that the former '2-in-a-bar' venues will not opt for entertainment to be included in their new licences because of fears of onerous administrative burdens. If we lose these venues it will be a disaster for grassroots live music making".
Are the Government doing enough to publicise these new requirements and the deadlines that accompany them? Many have argued that with the advent of 24/7 drinking, our communities will suffer through increased risk of crime and the overall diminution in quality of life. Home Office statistics which show a correlation between binge drinking and crime speak volumes. I believe passionately that much of that risk can be diverted by the promotion of more local live music. Indeed, I have said before in your Lordships' House that "more music . . . equals less trouble".
Let me give a classic example. Over a four-day period, contrasting between alcohol consumption and trouble at Bath and the Glastonbury festival site, both sharing a similar population figure over the period, the crimes committed at Glastonbury totalled 478 while those committed in a comparable area of Bath amounted to 566. In short, sleepy, sedate and dignified Bath still managed to record just under 20 per cent more crime over the period than the Glastonbury festival, with 120,000 people in a field consuming most of the cider that Somerset could produce.
Let us have more live music to counteract any negative impact the new licensing laws may bring. Music can act as an effective catalyst for improving the quality of life at a very local level. In short, the Government must do more to advertise and promote these licence changes and the impact they have in order to ensure that a golden opportunity to encourage and develop new, vibrant, creative live music is not lost.
The record industry also plays a key role in contributing through the arts to urban regeneration. Let us take EMI's involvement in the regeneration of the Roundhouse, that legendary building in Camden, north London. The Roundhouse is being redeveloped into both an international performance centre venue and a state-of-the-art creative centre where up to 10,000 young people a year will be able to explore their creativity, learn skills and gain experience to achieve their full potential. EMI's support will go towards the creation of professional recording facilities and performing space in the creative centre. Opportunities of this kind for young people can do more than directly affect those passing through. If successful, they can also help to break the cycle of disadvantage in the surrounding community.
I turn now briefly to the fundamentally important subject of broadcasting and the changes currently being made to the way in which our national broadcasters select their talent and run their businesses. Both the BBC and Channel 4 are currently involved in well publicised actions to cast their nets further in order to draw talent from and move closer to the wider regions of the UK, away from the capital. Small, independent producers
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1335
feature highly on this agenda. Channel 4's Creative Cities initiative is a programme of activities taking place throughout the UK. It includes film and television production and off-screen innovations and partnerships. As it currently stands, Channel 4 commissions work mainly from small to medium-scale producers in key regional cities all around the UK. In a typical year, around £115 million is committed to original creative content in urban areas outside London. For one example, the show "Hollyoaks" employs hundreds of people in Liverpool. There are, however, wider incentives for the broader community in conducting more business through regional external producersthe companies and employees involved often have strong personal commitments to the regions in which they live and work, and under the new terms of trade between producers and broadcasters, the IP rights reside with these producers. That means far greater potential for enhanced social and economic development and regeneration for micro-economies outside London.
There are all kinds of projects leading to urban regeneration through collaboration between broadcasters and key regeneration agencies and the community working together. One amazing example is the Castleford project in West Yorkshire, whereby Channel 4 is working in close consultation with the local community and agencies on 11 regeneration schemes in and around Castleford, a former mining town. Some of the schemes focus on improving the environment and some on supporting neglected neighbourhoods. The best thing about it is that the community has said what it would like rather than somebodyergo the Governmenttelling people what is needed.
The BBC also has strong commitments to various schemes of regionalisation and agrees that healthy competition in the supply of programmes tends to deliver the best results for audiences. It is so important that the BBC honours its obligations to devolve a good proportion of its programming operations to cities outside London. BBC Bristol, which houses the BBC's successful Natural History Unit, is a good example of this.
Although it is clear that there is a real drive in the broadcasting industry to push into the regions and devolve production and facilities, there is a need to focus on the number of small independent producers and encourage them to build and grow in these communities. The pool of talent from which independent production sources are drawn should be as deep and as wide as possible to catch a varied array of talent and diversity in terms of both skills and geographical location.
On a last note, I should mention the initiative recently taken to create a first super-casino in a region as yet undecided. This offers a golden opportunity to pilot a scheme, not just for a gambling centre, but for a centre which incorporates novel media and cultural benefits. Not only would such a drive be likely to unearth new and more diverse talent, but would also benefit the public as a whole and generate increased levels of public interest on a range of levels.
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1336
I have spoken about music and licensing, broadcasting and gambling and the ongoing innovations in each that present us with tremendous opportunities to develop and regenerate our urban communities. Indeed, I have referred to just a few of the many amazing initiatives currently in place which are genuinely contributing to educational and employment opportunities. At the end of the day, regeneration is about a nation's people. The economic benefits are worth while, the social benefits are incalculable.
In conclusion, therefore, I want to encourage the Minister to call on his Government to initiate research into the wider impact on society of our creative industries. All my instincts tell me that the results will prove the worth of the arts as a major contributor to the well-being of our society and, in particular, our urban communities.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|