Michael Dugher outlines how Yorkshire can nurture and grow its vibrant music scene

UK Music CEO says region needs a Music Development Board

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29:11:17 This month saw the release of the eagerly anticipated Instant Pleasures by Shed Seven. This stunning record, by York’s finest, was their first in 16 years.

It immediately hit the top 10 in the album charts, number one in the independent charts and number one on vinyl. It’s fair to say that of slightly less interest to music fans will be next month’s referendum in Barnsley and Doncaster to give people there the choice between the Sheffield City Region deal or the Yorkshire-wide option for a directly elected mayor to oversee the region’s jobs, growth, transport and skills.

You might not think that there is a direct connection between how we can nurture Yorkshire’s vibrant music scene, that has spawned artists in recent years like the Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs and Kate Rusby, and the debate about political devolution.

But you’d be wrong. Let me explain how good politics is also the bedrock of a good music scene. As a former Yorkshire MP, I was a patron of the Live in Barnsley festival and saw at first hand the amazing array for diverse, raw talent that the region boasts.

Now, as the chief executive of UK Music, the umbrella body that represents the different strands of the music business, it is my job to safeguard and foster a thriving music scene right across the UK – and not just in London.

Did you know that more than two million people enjoyed concerts and festivals in the Yorkshire and Humberside region in 2016, according to data UK Music collects annually? Around 849,000 people visited the region as “music tourists” to enjoy gigs or festivals, giving the local economy a significant £132m boost.

These visitors helped sustain 4,189 music industry jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside. Events like the Leeds Festival pull in audiences from across the world, while newer festivals like Cocoon in the Park and metro festivals are fast becoming a regular fixture on the county’s cultural map.

Today, I will be at Music:Leeds – an event aimed at connecting and supporting music in the city. I will also be at the MOBO awards at the First Direct Arena to celebrate the best of urban music.

The city is home to Leeds Beckett University and Leeds College of Music, two members of our Music Academic Partnership. Known as ‘MAP’, this is an innovative collaboration between academia and industry designed to maximise the employability of students and future-proof the music business to ensure new entrants have the right mix of experience and skills. But the entire county could be doing even better when it comes to producing the artists, producers, managers, songwriters, musicians, lyricists and creators of the future.

In my job, I’ve met the new ‘metro mayors’ across the country. I also work closely with London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and have seen what a force for good the mayoral model is. Sadiq Khan has set up the London Music Board to bring promoters, musicians, venues local authorities and developers much more closely together.

Liverpool and Manchester are looking at similar ideas. Plans driven forward by the Mayor are already having real benefits with major events lined up for 2018 include a month-long festival of music in the capital in June.

Like other parts of the country, Yorkshire has lost many iconic music venues in recent years as areas get redeveloped. Among those to shut their doors was the Cockpit in Leeds which hosted almost every local band in their early years.

A powerful voice is more likely to protect smaller and grassroots venues. We also saw in the Budget how the new Metro Mayors are bringing in investment by winning a share in initiatives like the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund.

As a proud Yorkshireman, I want the same investment and opportunities for the place where I grew up and where I had the privilege to be a Member of Parliament. And when it comes to the ability of mayors to punch their weight, size does matter. That’s why it is my firm view that having a metro mayor for the whole of the county – the “One Yorkshire” option – is best.

One Yorkshire is supported by 17 of the region’s 20 councils. If the Government really believes in devolution, and most authorities back having a Yorkshire Mayor, why won’t it give the the plan the go ahead?

Visiting other elected mayors, I have been impressed with their ability to get people around a table and get things done regardless of politics. Yorkshire has always been at the cutting edge when it comes to producing great music and talent that enriches our culture and brings huge economic benefits. For this and many more reasons, getting a devolution outcome that works for the whole of Yorkshire is now vital and urgent.

You can read Michael's article in the Yorkshire Post here

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