Brighton peer makes cultural contribution

Posted On 05 Jun 2010 at 10:16 am

Brighton peer Lord Macdonald of Tradeston praised the town’s cultural scene in the debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords.

He praised the Brighton Festival during a speech in which he urged minister in the new Conservative and Lib Dem coalition to protect spending on the arts.

Lord Macdonald, a Labour peer and former government minister under Tony Blair, said on Thursday: “As the financial crisis grinds on, noble lords on all sides of the House now accept that public spending must be reduced, but today many of us plead for our favoured causes.

“I will argue that public spending in support of Britain’s cultural sector is a sound economic investment.

“Over the past two decades, the rapid growth of our creative industries has been one of the UK’s proudest achievements.

“The creative sector is driven by imagination and flair – from architecture to advertising, across the media, from fashion to computer games – and Britain has undoubtedly got talent.

“Most of that talent works through small companies, and their artistry is often combined with an unabashed entrepreneurial zeal.

“An outstanding example of this is in television where government policy in the 1980s helped to create hundreds of independent production companies.

“I trust that the minister can assure us that the public service output of our television channels, which is so widely admired abroad and enjoyed at home, will be protected by the coalition Government, particularly in areas such as regional news and current affairs.

“Over the past decade, our creative industries have grown almost twice as fast as the rest of the UK economy.

“The sector employs about two million people, and the UK’s creative exports total £16 billion a year.

“We are world leaders when it comes to creativity. London, in particular, benefits from being an entertaining, edgy cultural capital.

“Cities outside London have also flourished in our cultural renaissance.

“In Brighton, where I now live, May is a month-long festival – and music, theatre, arts and media, along with a lively club scene, attract the tourists and keep Brighton buzzing throughout the year.

“Three years into the current financial crisis, cultural budgets are obviously under increasing pressure.

“Private sponsorship has held up better than expected, but it fell about 5 per cent in 2008 and is likely to have dropped again last year.

“The budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is now also under pressure.

“When the Chancellor announced his £6 billion of public spending cuts, £88 million was lopped off the DCMS budget. It was just 4 per cent, but it might be only the start.

“Will the minister assure us that the new team at the DCMS will do its utmost to protect our highly successful but inherently fragile creative industries from further damaging cuts in public support?”

Lord Macdonald, 69, aka Gus Macdonald, became a member of the court of Sussex University last year – a role akin to being a member of a board of governors or directors.

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