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Jazz

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton): Before I call the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) to speak on the subject of support for jazz, I hope that I may be permitted to say what a pleasure it is to welcome the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to respond to the debate.

12 noon

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): I am most grateful and pleased to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of jazz in our country, with its audience of millions and its wonderful musicians. Jazz is a significant contributor to the world of the arts and, as a lover of jazz and a former musician, I want jazz to prosper and grow and to bring its joys to many present and future generations.

Jazz has a vigour and life of its own but, like virtually all art through the ages, it requires additional support to reach its full potential to sustain and nurture its musicians and audience and to make a full contribution to our world. Jazz requires financial support and benign governmental sustenance. Art requires subsidy, and always has. Historically, religious institutions, monarchs, aristocrats, the wealthy and the corporate world have always realised that if one wants to see and hear the best, that costs. Great architecture, craftsmanship, visual art and music have to some extent always been patronised, sponsored and subsidised; so it has to be with jazz.

In a democratic age, it is right for the state to subsidise the arts. The arts should receive more support in our country than they do at present if they are to be for the many and not the few. Within the arts family, under-funded as it is, jazz is a poor relation. Jazz needs and deserves support, as a legitimate and distinct art form, along with opera, the visual arts, theatre and cinema. Our museums and art galleries are publicly financed; were they not, much art would be the preserve of the rich. Our public libraries have also brought literature to countless millions. Jazz receives some public funding but it is too little and sometimes derisory.

I should perhaps declare an interest, as secretary of the all-party parliamentary jazz appreciation group, which has some illustrious members, including the Deputy Prime Minister, the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am also a member of the all-party opera group, a supporter of the Globe theatre and was, in my youth, a modest performer of Mozart. I therefore speak for jazz within a broader arts perspective. Jazz does not have its fair share of the arts budget, which is itself too small, although I should point out that I appreciate and admire my right hon. Friend for his own love of the arts and acknowledge that he operates within certain constraints.

My case for jazz needs some facts and statistics to support it and I am indebted to Jazz Services Ltd. for providing much background information for this debate. That organisation was formed 16 years ago to promote the growth and development of jazz and is funded by the Arts Council of England. Musicians throughout the country play jazz. Many UK jazz musicians have developed international reputations and

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have committed their works to recordings that are eagerly sought by a worldwide audience. No major city in the UK is without a jazz scene. Mature musicians of established reputation and young musicians, many with great flair and originality, seek a serious audience who can understand and enjoy their music. They perform in a variety of settings: concert halls, arts centres, village halls, ballrooms, restaurants, coffee houses and public houses. Every summer there is a profusion of jazz festivals all over the country, many attracting some of the finest jazz musicians in the world.

One of the features of the British jazz audience is its size--some 3 million people patronise such events and four to five times as many again have a definable interest in jazz. It is interesting that the jazz audience is very much the same as that for opera.

The prime characteristics of a jazz audience at a typical small-scale venue are that it would have a 3:2 ratio of males to females, 70 per cent. of the audience would be aged between 16 and 35, 30 per cent. would be full-time students, and 50 per cent. would be from the ABC1 social groupings. Of course, that means that 50 per cent. would be from the C2, D and E groupings, which means that jazz has a wide appeal.

From 1993, Jazz Services Ltd. has advocated increased public support for jazz in the United Kingdom. The jazz on a shoestring campaign was launched in 1995, and an early-day motion about it attracted the support of more than 100 Members. A 10,000-signature petition in support of the campaign was presented to the then chairman of the Arts Council of England, Lord Gowrie, by Humphrey Lyttleton, John Dankworth and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase), who organised the petition.

Jazz Services Ltd. made representations to the then National Heritage Committee, the first report of which on the funding of the performing and visual arts in February 1996 stated:


NYJO is a jewel in our national musical crown and a marvellous training ground for hundreds of young musicians over the years. This year, NYJO has lost vital sponsorship funding, and has been offered an additional £500 by the Arts Council. That is an example of the derisory funding that I mentioned earlier, and is indicative of the regard in which jazz is held by some in the arts establishment.

In 1999-2000, Arts Council subsidy per attendee for jazz is 25p. For classical music, it is £2.26, and for opera, £12.75, which is 51 times the subsidy for jazz. I fully support the opera subsidy. I do not want to rob Pavarotti to pay Courtney Pine, but jazz deserves more. I am sad to say that the jazz subsidy has fallen by 4p per head since 1996-97, while opera funding has increased by 52p per head.

If we add Arts Council funding to support for jazz from the regional arts boards, the spending in 1997-98 of £1.9 million fell to a budget for this year of £1 million,

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which is in round terms a cut of more than 40 per cent. That is shabby by any standards. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will try to secure better funding for jazz.

Another restriction on the performance and accessibility of jazz is the so-called two-in-a-bar rule, which means that only two musicians can play in licensed premises without a public entertainment licence. That denies employment opportunities to jazz musicians. Many styles of music suffer from the rule, but jazz is hit especially hard. Licensing is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but I hope that he can use his influence with fellow Ministers to seek the necessary legislative change. I understand from the Musicians Union that the Government have accepted the argument for change, and I look forward to proposals in the forthcoming White Paper.

The jazz community congratulates the Government on their new deal for musicians, which is aimed at getting young musicians off the dole. The success of the project depends on young musicians being able to form and join bands and find venues in which to play. Pubs, clubs and restaurants are key, and 100,000 such venues are restricted by law to two musicians in a bar. Even if 10 per cent. became additional venues, that would mean 10,000 more places in which jazz groups could play.

I must conclude, but I would like to say more about jazz in other spheres, such as education and the media, and the need to make jazz more available to all from a young age. Appreciation of all arts depends to some extent on early familiarity. Britain is an intensely musical nation, bursting with talent, and in jazz we are second only to the USA. We have produced many world-class musicians as well as millions of discerning listeners. We have a proud jazz tradition and stunningly good young musicians, but jazz needs and deserves more support from Government.

Jazz was given to the world by black Americans, but is now an international multicultural music that knows no class boundaries and is a force for friendship. Like my political party, it has recently completed its first century, and promises more joy and exhilaration in the new millennium. I hope that the Government can show how much pride we have in Britain's great jazz tradition with more support for jazz at every level for the future.

I have often spoken about jazz in the past, but this is the first occasion on which I have been unable to accompany my talk with recorded musical contributions. That is a shame because jazz can, and does, speak for itself, and I have seen many in my audiences over the years whose eyes have shown that they have fallen under the spell of great music. My children grew up to the sounds of jazz and are as at home with Count Basie as they are with the Beatles or J.S. Bach. I would like everyone to have such choices and to experience the full richness that all music, including jazz, has to offer.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before I call the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) I inform hon. Members that he has, as is proper, received the permission of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) and the Secretary of State to participate in the debate.

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12.11 p.m.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): It would be remiss of me not to speak in the debate, as I am the chairman of the all-party jazz appreciation group and something of a fanatic in my pursuit of the jazz medium. I must compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) for obtaining the debate and for the business like way in which he has approached his role in the jazz appreciation group. He has not only encouraged people to listen to the medium and to appreciate the wide diversity and tremendous colour of the jazz scene, but worked generally on behalf of jazz.

Sadly, this is not a good time for the funding of the jazz world. I am also a member of the all-party opera group, and was the founding secretary of the Scottish opera group, which contributed to the solution that saved Scottish opera a few years ago. We have had the aid of some important people, including Lady Smith, the widow of the former Labour leader, who is very active in that group.

I must correct my hon. Friend on one point. Believe it or not, the Belgians not the Americans, gave us the saxophone. A gentleman called Dr. Sax invented the saxophone as a marching instrument for military bands; obviously it lends itself to being carried and played. Thank goodness--

Mr. Hopkins: I know that very well. The Americans gave the world jazz and taught it how to play the saxophone properly.

Mr. Connarty: Indeed, I was going to pay a compliment to one Ornette Coleman, who was probably the first practitioner of jazz and bebop as we know it. He was sacked from some big swing bands that liked a nice rhythm and did not like him to go off and freelance as he did, although that has of course become the stock of most good jazz concerts.

I was thinking about this debate on Saturday when I went to hear the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, which is led by Tommy Smith, a young boy from an impoverished background in Edinburgh. He was encouraged at the age of 12 to take up the saxophone at the Wester Hails community centre; he went on to Berklee and now writes some of the best pieces. Joe Lovano, who is of European extraction but plays in New York, played with him on Saturday night. They performed a beautiful, inspirational piece called "Torah", which was written by Tommy Smith and which is based on the first three books of the Bible. To those who turn up their noses at jazz, as something that happens in bars, I can say that the performance matched anything in the classical field.

However, I want to speak about the crisis that affects NYJO. We must compliment people such as Bill Ashton, who has kept NYJO alive by begging and seeking sponsorship for 25 to 30 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North mentioned the massive loss of sponsorship.

UNISON has kept NYJO on the road for the past three years by giving it £30,000, which is remarkable for a trade union. The union also gives substantial sponsorship to a brass band in my constituency, the

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former Kinneil colliery band. Clearly, it has supported a wide range of music on behalf of its members and has been fundamental to keeping NYJO alive.

NYJO now has a serious problem that £500 from the Arts Council will not solve. We must look seriously at an orchestra that has been the breeding ground for some of the best young jazz musicians--now probably mature jazz musicians--around the world. I hope that the Minister will give particular consideration to the plight of NYJO.

I have always found it strange that Humphrey Lyttleton, one of the great founders of British jazz, is not knighted--in fact, he is not even a lord. It is about time we had people to join John Dankworth in the pantheon of jazz. I hope that the Minister is listening. Bill Ashton may also deserve a small honour for his sterling work on behalf of jazz.

Those matters are important. By giving not only cash but support, the Government show that they appreciate the cultural diversity encouraged by people who lead orchestras such as the Strathclyde youth orchestra, or the school orchestras with many brass players who play jazz. Clearly, we can do a lot through education. If we could recognise some of the work of individuals, we could put jazz on a respectable footing. I hope that the two-in-a-bar rule will change. That would be important as it would provide 10,000 new venues. I also hope that the Minister will seriously consider encouraging the Arts Council to recognise jazz. Perhaps he might think of using some form of direct funding. Jazz has certainly enhanced my life.

I have met young people in London who used to come to my home, such as Stephen Hamilton, a young jazz pianist who has played on many CDs that have been released in Britain and who used to play the old battered piano in my front room. Sadly, I have to say that my son, a software engineer in London, earns three times as much in a year as he does. Stephen could clearly have done that job, but he chose to pursue his love for jazz instead. He is a great talent, but his annual takings do not add up to a good salary, and he receives only slightly more than the average wage, because of what he calls his art. We can support him only by giving money to that art to show that we recognise his giving, and the giving of many talented jazz players in Britain.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am sure that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members when I say how grateful we are to the Secretary of State for coming to give encouragement to debates in Westminster Hall, and for finding time to reply to this debate on jazz. His action is a great fillip.

12.16 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): I am delighted to be here today, because it is fascinating to see for the first time the proceedings in Westminister Hall, which are eminently more civilised than those in the Chamber. Furthermore, jazz is of great importance, and by replying in person I want to show the significance that I attach to it.

I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) on his choice of tie, which is extremely appropriate, because it is the parliamentary

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jazz group's tie. It is a pleasure to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty), who had a distinguised year as parliamentary private secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) when he served as a Minister of State in my Department. It was a pleasure to work closely with my hon. Friend during that period.

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friends have said. The starting point has to be that it is important to recognise that the funding system reflects the diversity of musical genres, whether they be jazz, folk, African-Caribbean, early music or any of the more traditional styles that have been supported from public funds. It is also important that those funds help to support and generate a great diversity of audiences, because the same audience does not appreciate all types of music.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North is aware, the arts are subsidised using the arm's-length principle. Decisions on funding for individual art forms or organisations are taken by those with the relevant expertise in the Arts Council of England or in the regional arts boards. It is important that Ministers do not intervene directly in those decisions. The Government should set the framework within which arts funding operates. Support for the full diversity of music in England is an important principle. However, decisions about grants to particular organisations, and even the balance between different genres of artistic activity, must be for the Arts Council and, increasingly, the RABs, to which much decision making is rightly being devolved. The Arts Council and the RABs include experts who can make decisions about particular arts organisations. Politicians and civil servants simply do not have that expertise. It is important to set the principle, which must be that jazz deserves good support from the public funding system.

Before I discuss funding, I shall touch briefly on the public entertainment licensing regulations to which my hon. Friends the Members for Luton, North and for Falkirk, East referred, and in particular the two-in-a-bar rule. I am pleased to say that, together with colleagues in other Departments, especially the Home Office, we are actively reviewing the constraints that the licensing system places on musical performance in such venues, and I hope that in due course we shall be able to introduce deregulatory measures to assist the broad picture.

I cannot deny that opera and classical music account for the bulk of Arts Council funding. The statistics that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North cited speak for themselves. That is perhaps not surprising given the nature of both art forms. Opera and classical music cost more than other forms of music. They employ large numbers of people, such as musicians, choruses, designers, riggers and technicians, for example, to achieve their effects. In addition, the cost of hiring soloists is often dictated by the international market.

Classical music has a history of private patronage, which translated in the post-war era into public subsidy, which continues to this day. Jazz, on the other hand, has a different heritage. It is rooted in the musical traditions of Afro-Caribbean Americans. West African and black folk music forms developed in the Americas.

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The word "jazz" has a variety of meanings, encompassing a broad and changing stream of styles. Within those styles, each jazz performance represents an original and largely spontaneous creation, as an essential element of jazz is improvisation. Jazz music is a unique art form. It stands alone in its use of improvisatory practices as the focal point of the music. It provides great scope for individuality and creativity. Its vitality stems from the spontaneity of the improvising musician.

In its turn, jazz has influenced the development of new styles of popular music and the work of symphonic composers. The interaction of different styles and genres of music is one of the most welcome developments in modern musical tradition. We are witnessing the fusing of different traditions and types of creativity, which is extremely welcome.

Subsidy acts as investment, provides continuity, allows artistic risks, sustains the best of tradition, develops new talent and feeds, but does not replace, the commercial entertainment economy. That is not to say that jazz should not be supported from the public purse; it must be. It would struggle without that support. However, a mixture of funding sources is appropriate for jazz, which is an important part of the UK contemporary music scene.

No one would doubt the existence of a jazz economy, as evidenced by the number of private sector jazz clubs, concerts, festivals, dedicated record labels and, indeed, in Jazz FM, a commercial radio station specifically devoted to jazz. The Arts Council's funding for jazz is currently about £1 million in grant in aid, which includes support from the new audiences fund. Jazz has also benefited from lottery funding, and is a key part of the work of the National Foundation for Youth Music, an organisation that we established, with £30 million over three years of lottery support from the Arts Council of England, and which is designed to support all types of musical development and activity, including jazz, among young people. As my hon. Friend mentioned, the new deal for young musicians, enabling people who are otherwise unemployed to develop their musical skills and experience, is particularly appropriate for young jazz musicians.

In addition, awards have been made to organisations that are developing the jazz musicians and audiences of tomorrow. JazzDev, for example, formed over 15 years ago to promote the growth and development of jazz in the UK and primarily funded by the Arts Council of

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England, works closely with other UK organisations to give voice to jazz. JazzDev has recently been awarded money from the new audiences fund to work with four arts marketing agencies in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool on measurable exercises to increase arts audiences across all sectors, including jazz. JazzDev's grant in aid increased by 8.5 per cent. this year and will increase by 5 per cent. in the next financial year.

My hon. Friend the 7/8 ember for Luton, North mentioned the work of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. I am pleased to tell him that, after an admittedly tiny increase in funding in the current financial year, that orchestra will receive a 24.4 per cent. increase in 2001-02. The grants of the Arts Council of England to the English regional arts boards will in 2000-01 be nearly 20 per cent. higher than in the current financial year. The regional arts boards are free to develop music policies appropriate to their different regional contexts and audience needs. Many jazz organisations will look to those boards over the coming months to use some of their substantially increased funding, which is designed to increase support for jazz. Money is available, much of it through the RABS, for new and not so new programmes which are designed to benefit applicants from outside the classical mainstream.

The Arts Council of England published its policy for the support of jazz in November 1996 and both it and the RABs remain fully committed to its recommendations. Much has been done since that report, but much remains to be done. My hon. Friends have today done us a great service in reminding us of that. We have encouraged the Arts Council to reform itself and the funding system it operates. Gerry Robinson as chairman and Peter Hewitt as chief executive of that body have achieved much in the past two years. There is still much to do, however.

The Arts Council is keen to ensure that all forms of art and music receive support and funding, but it must make the final decisions; I cannot do so. I recommend that both my hon. Friends and all in the jazz constituency maintain their dialogue with the Arts Council, particularly with the RABs. They should point firmly to the principle that we have established throughout the past two and a half years that diverse musical types and activities deserve support and should give as much encouragement as possible to those parts of the funding system that rightfully ensure that jazz is supported and continues to play a major part in the musical and artistic life of this country.

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