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Music Lovers Turn Out In Force At Labour Conference To Hear Expert Panel Outline Covid-19 Recovery Plans

28.09.2021: A full house turned up at Labour conference to hear UK Music’s star panel discuss “How does music recover from Covid?”

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How Does Music Recover From Covid? UK Music Labour Conference panel with (L-R) Craig Stanley, Jo Stevens MP, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Melvin Benn and Alex Davies-Jones MP.

28.09.2021: A full house turned up at Labour conference to hear UK Music’s star panel discuss “How does music recover from Covid?”

Our panel featured Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP, Festival Republic Managing Director Melvin Benn, DCMS Select Committee Member Alex Davies-Jones MP and Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts.

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin chaired the event in Brighton, which focussed on what should happen to help the music industry recover from Covid-19.

Opening the discussion, Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said that the sector was one of the fast growing parts of the economic pre-pandemic and Labour believed it could be again post-Covid-19.

However, she warned that major problems facing musicians and crew touring Europe could hinder that growth and the current situation was a “barrier to British talent”.

Measures such as a visa-waiver programme and work permit exemptions were urgently needed, said the Shadow Culture Secretary. She insisted: “This is a problem that needs fixing – and fixing as soon as possible.”

Craig Stanley said he believed cabotage – the transport of goods overseas by hauliers from another country – would prove to be a far bigger issue than the challenges around visas and work permits.

He explained that at present trucks going to mainland Europe could only make three stops before having to return to the UK. “Clearly, for a 20-day tour that is very problematic if you can only make three stops,” said Craig.

Alex Davies-Jones said her biggest fear for the music industry was the potential damage to the talent pipeline because of the many musicians who had been forced to quit during the pandemic when their work dried up.

The MP said many young people did not get the chance now to learn to play a music instrument at school, as she had, because of budget cuts.

She added: “I’m really, really scared now that impact means that we are going to lose the Amy Wadge or the Adeles of the future – and those people who want to become sound engineers or producers and everything that makes up our amazing creative industries. If we don’t stand up for these industries, then nobody is going to.”

Alex added that nurturing the talent pipeline should also mean “everybody, regardless of their status, had the opportunity to have a career in the industry if they want to”.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said it was “heartbreaking” to see so many people leaving the sector.

Melvin Benn said it was a fantastic achievement that the UK had enjoyed a musical summer – something that had not happened in Europe or elsewhere. He explained: “We had an amazing summer – two months of really joyous activity.”

However, the Festival Republic boss warned it was vital everything possible was done to ensure live music was not again silenced by Covid-19 and stressed the need for the VAT cut on ticket sales to continue.

Melvin added it was crucial the Culture Minister and the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) had a “proper voice” in Government and at the heart of Cabinet.

Among the audience was Musicians’ Union general secretary Horace Trubridge who pointed out that, while freelance musicians in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been allowed to access the Cultural Recovery Fund, those in England had not.

Horace condemned the decision as “extraordinary” and “desperately unfair”. He asked for the panel’s views on a transitionary fund to help these musicians back into work.

When it came to calls for further Government action, Craig Stanley said it was important the VAT cut continued along with further help for exports.

Jo Stevens said it was important to help more people into music and help them enjoy high quality work with decent workplace protections, which should be a bedrock at the heart of Government policy.

Concluding, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin thanked the panel and the audience for such an “inspiring and encouraging” discussion.

The event took place as UK Music prepares to launch its Music Industry Strategic Recovery Plan to help boost jobs and growth in the sector.

Other UK Music members who attended the event included Olga FitzRoy (MPG), Naomi Pohl (MU), Sophie Jones (BPI), Beth Sidwell (BPI) and Isabelle Gutierrez (MU).

Among those in the audience at the Holiday Inn hotel on Monday were Labour MP Jeff Smith and former Labour MP Paul Farrelly.

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