Sharon hosted an Arts Summit reception in Parliament, which brought together all the arts-related APPGs to network and campaign on the importance of the arts to society, our economy and children's education.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
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Firstly, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for coming along this afternoon.
It is fantastic to see so many people from across Parliament, the cultural and creative industries and the education sector coming together to show our support for the arts and be a strong voice to raise awareness of our concerns for the future of the arts and creative industries.
Human creativity is important to us as it’s what makes us who we are. When the very first caveman drew a buffalo on the first cave wall and danced around the fire singing, creativity and artistic expression have been central to our very existence as individuals and as a society.
We should not betray that fact, and should instead harness the boundless nature of human creativity.
The arts are not just vitally important to us as individuals and as a society, but also to our economy. The arts make £84.1 billion per annum here in the UK, which is rising by 6% yearly.
This translates as £9.6 million an hour for the UK, or a whopping £160,000 a minute. Once I have finished addressing you this afternoon, the arts will have contributed £800,000 to our economy.
These figures cannot go ignored.
Yet, there is a risk that these impressive figures are in jeopardy from the ramifications of the country’s decision to exit the EU, along with the Government’s controversial education policies.
On Brexit, much of this has already been discussed by others in the sector, including Dezeen magazine which created their Brexit Design manifesto, which is supported by leading luminaries from across the design, architecture and arts industries who are asking for the Government to recognise the design world’s importance to our economy, but also its close connections to the EU, as one of its major export markets for design services.
Just in the last few weeks we have seen the internationalism and innovation of the UK’s arts and creative industries, with Frieze Arts Fair last weekend, where artists, art buyers and galleries from across the world descended on London to enjoy, buy and promote art. To last month, seeing London Fashion Week and London Design Week, showcasing the creativity and design innovation of some of our best assets here in the UK, to the rest of the world.
But note, it isn’t all a London-centric story, with over 60% of creative businesses outside of the capital – with games designers, such as Ubisoft, in Gateshead in the North East, and Media City in Manchester, to name just a few.
Arts and culture unite our country and highlight the best of British to the world. We cannot allow exiting the EU to damage these industries.
It is not only Brexit which may have an impact on our arts, creative and cultural industries, but also the current Government’, and previous Coalition Government’s, educational policies.
Many of you, in fact everyone in this room I would imagine, will have heard of the EBacc and the growing evidence that has shown that this school performance measure is having serious consequences on the uptake of arts subject in our schools.
It is obvious when we saw a decrease of 11,552 students taking an art and design GCSE last year, and a 33.4% decline in AS levels in art, then we are setting ourselves up for a serious pipeline problem where we will struggle to find new artists, designers and creators to allow the arts and creative industries to flourish.
When business is booming and consumers are enjoying what UK plc has to offer, we are seeing that education policies are failing to recognise the fact that creativity will be one of the main drivers of the 21st century economy.
To make sure the next generation is as successful as it possibly can be, we need to be educating them to take up the jobs of the future. Many of which won’t have been heard of yet, but as we all will agree, creativity will play a central role in those jobs of the future.
That is why this summit is important to begin the work of closer collaboration between Parliament and the creative industries and I hope that we will have great success come out of today, so we can champion common causes which affect such an important part of our society and economy.