Labour to promise ‘access to the arts’ to widen involvement in creative industries | Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer will pledge to make the arts more accessible to young people from all backgrounds in a speech stressing the economic contribution of the creative industries – and arguing it could be even greater with improved access.

Speaking in London, days after a Labour analysis showed that almost half of all British cultural stars nominated for leading awards in the last decade were educated at private school, Starmer will set out an “access to the arts” plan.

Speaking to 250 senior figures from creative industries, the Labour leader will argue that the Conservatives have neglected arts education, thus hampering the sector and limiting opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

“Our music, our films, our games, our fashion, our literature – what we make and produce is known and loved in every corner of the globe,” Starmer is expected to say, stressing that UK creative industries are worth a total of £125bn to the economy.

Despite this the Conservatives 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”.

Starmer, who spoke during a school visit earlier in the week about his joy in learning to play musical instruments as a child, is expected to condemn the government for neglecting creative subjects in education, saying: “Zero-sum thinking between the arts and sciences misses the point entirely. There is no building back without the arts. The creative industries have the power and the potential for levelling up like nothing else.”

The extracts released in advance from Starmer’s speech give no details of how Labour would address this issue, beyond Starmer saying that a government he led would “work together, hand in glove with our creative industries” to “raise the next generation of creatives”.

Singer Beverley Knight appears in a Labour video backing the arts plan. Photograph: Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock

A series of leading arts figures have said over recent years that cuts to arts funding in state schools have meant that areas such as music and acting are increasingly the preserve of people educated privately.

The Labour analysis found that of 130 Britons nominated for the main prizes at the Oscars, Baftas and Mercury prize over the last 10 years, 40% went to private school, against 6% of the population who are privately educated.

Starmer will say: “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.”

To coincide with the speech, Labour has released a video in which a series of musicians, actors and others, among them singer Beverley Knight and actor James Norton, back the plan.

Support has also come from authors including Kate Mosse and Jeanette Winterson. Winterson said: “Show me a child who doesn’t want to paint a picture. A child who doesn’t want to hear a story and tell it back to you. Kids sing and dance. They love music. They invent games and characters. They will build a kingdom out of pots and pans.

“Then we put them through a utility education and say that the arts are a luxury item. The arts develop our natural creativity. If creativity is a luxury, then being human is a luxury.”

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