skip to main content

Access to the Arts is the Only Way to Harness its Economic Potential Says Labour Leader Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has set out Labour Party plans to improve access to the arts for all, and to unlock the huge potential of the UK's creative industries.

Published: 14 March 2024 | 1:54 PM
Keir Starmer speaking at the Labour Creatives Conference against a red background.
“We want the arts to be for everyone, everywhere”. Image credit: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has set out how his Labour Government will work with industry on an ‘Access to the Arts’ plan to ensure creative opportunities for people across the UK regardless of background.

It includes pledges announced earlier this week to broaden the curriculum to better incorporate creative subjects, and give all children the opportunity to explore them.

These announcements follow extensive lobbying from the Musicians' Union, with Labour's National Policy Forum document including major improvements for our members. The document, which sets out the programme for a potential Labour government, specifically mentions learning an instrument among other commitments on music education, protecting the BBC and touring in the EU.

A Labour Government would deliver for musicians

Responding to the plan announced today, MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: “British music is worth £6.7 billion to the UK economy, our exports are worth £4 billion and we attract over £1 million music tourists each year.

“Over the past decade, funding and opportunities for British musicians and creative young people have diminished. Many venues have closed, arts organisations are cutting back due to funding cuts, freelancers are leaving music and both international and domestic touring have increased in cost and difficulty.

“A Labour Government would deliver better conditions for freelancers, would support music spaces, boost music education and address issues with touring in Europe.

“They have made promises on many of our key issues and, while we know the economic environment is incredibly challenging, they have committed to practical support that will put us on a better footing to grow the music industry and nurture musical talent.”

Safeguarding the future of music and arts

In his speech setting out the Access to the Arts plan, Starmer explained how the Conservative Government has failed to harness the potential of the creative sectors, leading to crucial pressure points in the talent pipeline that’s vital for industry success.

Highlighting the impact of 14 years of failure, Starmer said: “They have no strategy for the arts. They have no plan to harness the potential of the creative industries, and no ambition to safeguard the future of the industry by prioritising creativity in schools.

“The Tories’ attitude to creative education says a lot about their attitude to the arts as a whole. When they proposed cutting arts funding in higher education by 50% in 2021, they said arts subjects ‘weren’t a strategic priority’ and that they were focused on the subjects needed to ‘build back better’.

“Zero sum thinking between the arts and sciences misses the point entirely. There is no building back without the arts.”

Creating more opportunities for everyone, everywhere

Setting out how Labour views arts and culture, Starmer said: “We will support the arts and creative industries to create more opportunities for working class kids and more secure jobs in the sector. Because we want the arts to be for everyone, everywhere.

“This is something I don’t think the Tories understand. They think that working people don’t need culture. This patronising sense that working people don’t care, and shouldn’t care, about the arts.”

Starmer added: “We will work together, hand in glove with our creative industries. No more sticking plaster politics. A long term, comprehensive plan for a decade of national renewal. Together, we will raise the next generation of creatives and harness the power of your industry to create wealth in every community.”

More details on the report will be made available as it comes.

Read the MU’s full reaction to Labour plans for music education.

Arts funding

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

Arts Council England has made major cuts in public funding to arts organisations. The UK's music sector needs more investment to keep it world leading and protect the working people at its heart.

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

Continue reading

Young female Black musician, wearing headphones sat in front of a keyboard in a recording studio.

Black Lives in Music Launch YourSafetyYourSay Survey on Bullying and Harassment in the Music Industry

The survey will inform government legislation, the work of the new Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority and the wider music industry. It will also be used to support BLiM’s forthcoming Anti Racist Code of Conduct. Members are encouraged to share their experiences.

Published: 19 April 2024

Read more about Black Lives in Music Launch YourSafetyYourSay Survey on Bullying and Harassment in the Music Industry
Exterior of Caird Hall in the city centre of Dundee, Scotland.

Representing Our Scottish Members at STUC Congress 2024

This week we attended the annual Scottish Trades Union Congress with MU Delegates Christine Cooper and Ben Lunn, who discussed the importance of music education, community arts in Scotland and establishing a Music Expo Office for the country. All three of our motions were passed unanimously.

Published: 18 April 2024

Read more about Representing Our Scottish Members at STUC Congress 2024