Thank you to all those of you who have taken the time to contact me about the obscure and bizarre regulations that are currently prohibiting amateur choirs from practising in person, indoors, in groups any larger than six choristers. After months of being denied the chance to sing together these regulations are, in effect, preventing most choirs from practising or performing at all.
As a graduate of the Royal College of Music, a musician, former composer and music teacher, and as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music and having been a Trustee for organisations from the National Youth Orchestra to Music For Youth UK, I know very well how much joy singing together brings to all - and also how beneficial singing is for mental health and wellbeing. I’m happy to say, categorically, that I utterly oppose these restrictions and I am calling on the Government to lift them immediately.
Simply, the current restrictions lack any logic or justification. Gyms, where people exercising produce high levels of aerosols, have been identified as being a particular risk for spreading Coronavirus, yet indoor gym classes have been permitted to reopen with no such limits on indoor class sizes or equipment users. Pubs cannot offer the levels of ventilation or space for social distancing that most choral venues provide and represent a much greater risk. And it must be pointed out that a vast majority of amateur choristers are in the age bracket that will have received at least one, if not both, doses of a vaccine.
These are just three examples in an endless list as to why the restrictions in place on choirs are nonsensical. I have spoken to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, about this issue and I am writing to the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State with a demand to review these restrictions as a matter of urgency.
The Arts, including of course music, have suffered disproportionately throughout this pandemic. Music is an issue that is, as I’ve described, enormously close to my heart, so please rest assured that I intend to keep battling on this.
I have worked throughout the pandemic to support artists and musicians. Although the Government’s packages of financial support have helped to protect the livelihoods of many millions of people throughout the UK, many artists and musicians have found themselves excluded from financial support. I’ve lobbied the Government extensively to ensure that those who have found themselves excluded, through no fault of their own, receive the support they both need and deserve. If you feel so inclined, do read my speech in Parliament in support of those who have been excluded here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-12-09/debates/20120965000002/details#contribution-4C069411-F22C-41C5-A9D9-44571D8F7B5F
I’ve also fought for additional financial support for cultural and artistic venues and have continually highlighted to Government the immense value of the cultural sector to local economies throughout the UK - and of the need to ensure that the sector is fully supported. I’ve spoken repeatedly in Parliament on this issue and you might be interested to read one of my speeches here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-08/debates/4D1CBDF7-EC03-4509-90D0-C3214FAA33BE/details#contribution-1B7D7F81-3778-4A33-A53F-486D9C777A24
A flaw in the Brexit trade deal has resulted in UK musicians who wish to perform throughout the EU incurring significant extra costs and administrative barriers. I’m helping to lead the campaign to remove these barriers and am demanding the Government immediately seeks a supplementary agreement with the EU (or its member states) to secure the ability of all creative workers including musicians, performers, their equipment and others such as technicians to travel and work in Europe, securing the economic benefit of the creative industries to the UK economy and protecting the livelihoods and essential earning opportunities of British artists.
I utterly oppose the current restrictions placed upon choirs in England and will be doing all I can to ensure that they are lifted as soon as possible. I’ll be publishing my letter to the Prime Minister, along with contributions that I make in Parliament on the issue, on my website, and I will keep battling.