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Amber Burney's column for The Journal

 

​As we’ve seen in the last week, the ongoing threat of local lockdowns is real and sudden. With further lockdowns comes continued restrictions – and so the easing that was meant to come this month has been delayed.

Although vital for the physical safety of ourselves and our neighbours, its important we recognise the further chaos this brings across the many sectors relying on this easing to restart and rebuild.

Notably, our arts, culture and tourism sectors are in crisis. The Chamber wrote to the Secretary of State Oliver Dowden explaining our dire need for funding for the sector, and although delighted by the news of the £1.58 billion investment, there’s still a long way to go.

To eliminate any confusion around the importance of these organisations, the creative industries generate £111 billion a year for the UK economy, £32 billion of this coming from the cultural sector. In the North East, organisations such as Sage Gateshead and Tyne and Wear Museums attract visitors from far and wide, as well as making it a great place to work and live, attracting investment, jobs, and talent.

All the above-mentioned benefits of having top-tier cultural, arts and tourist institutions and attractions lend themselves well to the North East cause and Government’s promise – levelling up our region. Investment in such a high growth sector does not only aid the UK’s economy, but helps to raise up the regions neglected over the years. It will give us the ability to compete with places like London as a great place to work, to move with your family, to stay for a week’s visit and explore our beautiful heritage.

Fraser Anderson of Sage Gateshead made a great point lately that engagement in arts and culture also improves health: 60% of people who attend cultural events report good health and it has a positive impact on people living with dementia. Young people who engage in arts and culture are twice as likely to volunteer in their communities as those who don’t. These benefits are of utmost importance during a pandemic when our physical and mental health are both at risk.

The curtains are yet to be raised for all in these sectors, but the show must go on. The Chamber will continue to shout about our great arts, culture, and tourism organisations, who so clearly need maintained support throughout the recovery process.