Marvelling at magic of music
Meeting President Zelenskyy
A few weeks ago I was honoured to listen to the speech to Parliament by President Zelenskyy, the brave head of state for Ukraine, and to meet and talk with him personally afterwards. We talked of the importance of standing firm with our allies against aggression and how important that is for peace and freedom worldwide.
All that President Zelenskyy wants is peace and freedom for his country – a peace which was directly attacked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago and a freedom which the Ukrainian people still enjoy, giving them the courage to defend their country. As President Zelenskyy said himself, standing up to Russia is so important, because it sends a clear message to any aggressor “who will try to push boundaries by force, who will inflict destruction on other peoples, who will try to endure his dictatorship at the expense of other people’s blood in criminal and unprovoked wars.”
Music venues need our support
On February 16 I met representatives of Bristol’s grassroot music venues to hear about the challenges they face. These incredible people found creative ways of getting through the Covid crisis and after pressure from local MPs including me, the government provided some support. However, having come through Covid, they’re now facing energy bills five or six times what they were, audience members hit by cost of living and much more.
Britain has creative heritage that is the envy of the world, and the government should be doing more to not risk losing it. Their approach to touring rights for UK musicians post-Brexit has been a shambles.
The government need to urgently get back to the negotiating table with our EU neighbours, to secure a proper deal for creative workers. As well as visas, the long-term future for UK music also depends on a better deal for musicians from streaming. I and my Labour colleagues are talking to our EU colleagues already to start this process.
Small music venues are hugely important – fostering homegrown talent, providing a source of joy and connection for people from all walks of life, and boosting the local economy.
Eagerly awaiting the transformed Bristol Beacon
I was recently given a tour of Bristol Beacon as it gets ready for the re-opening in November. This venue will be world-class, accessible, and a site for the amazing music education and outreach Bristol Plays Music does with our city’s young people.
Seeing it all come together has been one of the highlights of the year already. I saw the painstaking efforts being made to bring alive the architectural splendour. Whether it is steel columns from the 1800s or balustrades from the 90s, they have all found a place in the 21st century version of this historic building.
The Bristol Beacon plays an important role in showcasing the arts but also in widening access to music for so many people from different backgrounds and abilities. I am particularly proud of the amazing work they do in providing free music tuition for children in care and those with disabilities.
Seeing the cellars being converted to education and performance spaces and being used for the first time, showed how much more the people of Bristol can expect from the transformed Bristol Beacon. I certainly can’t wait.
Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
The last few weeks have been dominated by the tragic scenes from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. It is impossible for me to put into words the scale of human suffering with people being left in the cold without food, shelter or medical supplies.
The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched a Turkey-Syria Earthquakes Appeal. If you would like to contribute, please visit www.dec.org.uk.