For the latest in our After Nyne @ The General Election series, we contacted the two coalition parties, and the opposition to pin down their intentions, and attitudes towards the arts.
We were delighted to get the opportunity to speak to Chris Bryant MP of Labour, the Shadow Arts Minister for a discussion ranging across Labour’s goals, and his own favourite cultural icons.
Arts and Culture are the backbone of After Nyne. If elected, what do Labour intend to do for the arts?
Labour will guarantee every young person an entitlement to a proper artistic and cultural education. So, OFSTED will not be able to rate a school as good or outstanding unless they are good or outstanding in the arts and culture. We will also work to make sure that the money for the subsidised arts like theatre, music, dance, galleries and museums is spread far more evenly across the country.
We are committed to the tax credits system for high end TV, film, theatre, orchestras and the games industry. We will continue with our successful policy of free admission to national museums and galleries which has benefited millions of British people and been a major attraction for international visitors to this country.
We will also ensure full transparency in the Lottery so that people can see where the tickets are being bought and where the money is going. Perhaps most importantly we will continue the mixed broadcasting economy of a strong BBC founded by the licence fee and a strong commercial sector with Channel 4 in public hands.
What mistakes do you feel the current government have made in arts policy?
The big mistake has been to denigrate the arts by suggesting, as Nicky Morgan, the Education Minister did, that an arts qualification would hold you back for the rest of your life.
We will reverse that trend, quite simply because the Creative industries bring in billions of pounds to the UK economy every year, they employ nearly one in twelve people in the country and they represent the powerhouse of our economy.
In the Labour years we trebled the arts budget – in the Tory years they cut it by a third.
What mistakes do you feel the previous government made in arts policy areas?
If I’m honest, I think our record across the thirteen years was pretty good. We invested in the arts, we started free admission to museums and galleries, we brought in the film tax credits system.
We should probably have brought in other tax credits earlier, which might have helped protect some part so fetch industry from the terrible effect so fetch Tory cuts.
In your opinion, what part do fashion, culture, arts play in the future of this nation?
The full range of creative industries are a vital part of our economy. They employ several million people, they add value to the nation and they express our shared and multi-faceted nature. There are challenges, though. The number of people from BAME communities entering the creative industries has fallen in recent years.
The Baftas showed how monocultural our film and TV industry can be. And several actors have pointed to how difficult it is for actors from working class backgrounds to get on in the business. I think we need to look very closely at the training that is provided to ensure equal access and to guarantee that that training helps people not just gain the technical expertise they need, but the working life skills to forge a career as well.
Who, in your opinion, are leading figures in fashion, culture and arts areas? Political, or industry.
My heroes and heroines are a pretty mixed bunch – David Harewood, Mark Rylance, Doug Hodge, Eddie Redmayne, David Morrissey amongst the actors, Helen Mirren, Tamsin Grieg, Sheridan Smith amongst the actresses.
I have great respect for Tony Hall and his team at the BBC, managing a corporation we all know and love (and sometimes hate). I always love it when Beverley Knight comes on the stage – and I’ve been to see Erasure more times than is good for me.
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Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian David Levene/Guardian