Baroness Featherstone, House of Lords Debate on the Creative Sector

On 4 November, The House of Lords debated: "That this House takes note of the impact of Her Majesty’s Government’s policy and spending on the creative sector in the United Kingdom."

Members from both sides of the House attended the debate, to address the Government's recent spending review and policies and their impact on the creative sector. Baroness Featherstone, who called the debate, described the Government's lowly spending on the creative sector as fig leaves to hide behind:

'There is not a huge amount in the spending review to say thank you for, but as the Government tend to deflect all criticisms by holding up such fig leaves to hide a lack of genuine priority, drive and belief in the sector, and to save the Minister from doing it at the end, I will do it for them. I genuinely thank the Government for the extension of tax relief for museums, galleries, theatres and orchestras, the £850 million in post-pandemic support for culture and heritage institutions, and the £14 million a year in scale-up funding for creative SMEs. The problem is that the true priority the Government give to the sector lies behind those fig leaves.'

Baroness Featherstone also addressed how the lack of support for creative industries is illustrated by the DfE Secretary of State’s letter to the Office for Students. She quoted from the letter:

“strategic priorities—covering subjects in music, dance, drama and performing arts; art and design; media studies; and archaeology—are to be subject to a reduction of 50 per cent.”

Her address continued by also addressing the impact of policies on subjects and arts in education: 

'Then there is the EBacc, where arts are excluded completely, and the lack of action on the vanished £90 million-a-year arts premium promised by the Treasury in March 2020.' 

Baroness Featherstone went on to describe further examples of how the Government have signalled so clearly, at home and to the whole world, that the UK creative sector is not a priority or important. She quoted the Bible,'By their actions shall ye know them” explaining why the Government should be both messaging and supporting the creative sector: 'It is our secret weapon and our soft power success.' She quoted from data and evidence to explain why. In the summing up of her findings, Baroness Featherstone implored the Government to support the sector. Her speech ended with a quote from prime minister Borris Johnson himself: 

'“You know, sometimes I don’t understand what’s wrong with us. This is just about the most creative and imaginative country on earth – and yet sometimes we just don’t seem to have the gumption to exploit our intellectual property.”'

Members from both sides of the House spoke during the three-hour debate, including The Earl Clancarty, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education. To this end, the Earl focussed on arts and arts in education. Addressing the importance of independent state-funded arts and media, the impact of Brexit and Covid. He also completed his speech imploring the Government to support the arts in schools, and to do so as part of the Covid recovery:

'It is essential that young people have the same access to the arts as they do to sciences in schools. With new teams at both DCMS and DfE, now is the right time to look again at the EBacc. Over the last seven years, take-up of arts GCSEs has fallen by 28%, and take-up of A-level music has dropped by 44% over the last 10 years. The 50% cut to arts higher education courses and the wrongheaded suggestion that courses that lead to poor salaries should be cut will additionally give the wrong signal to schools at a time when a pipeline of talent for the arts is required, as part of the post-Covid recovery.'

'Education in art and design subjects is key for such innovation to take place. We need to move away from predominantly knowledge-based education if such an economy is to succeed.'

Read the full debate here