Baroness Bakewell (pictured) and Lord Wasserman made their maiden speeches in the House of Lords on Thursday 3 February in a debate on public funding for the arts.
The debate was introduced by the Earl of Clancarty.
The arts have ‘played a sustained and sustaining role’ throughout her own life, Baroness Bakewell said. She profoundly believed that ‘the arts are more than the entertainment that awaits us at the end of the working day-a light relief from the real business of living. I believe the arts to be a core essential in shaping and sustaining our human values. So it is not surprising that I am passionate that the rewards should be available to everyone in our society.’
Public funding of the arts outreach programmes touched ordinary lives, she said. Its central purpose and ‘absolute undertaking’ was to ‘encourage the artistic spirit.’ If the enjoyment of art was ‘confined to those who can easily afford high prices’, public money was ‘not being responsibly spent.’ The sums of money involved though relatively small, were important Baroness Bakewell continued: ‘They are less likely to attract sponsorship or media attention, but they change lives – 76 per cent of adults engaged in the arts in the past year,’ she said.
In closing, Baroness Bakewell called for the endorsement of a funding strategy that gives all citizens ‘access to and participation in work that can be uplifting and life changing.’
The UK was ‘very privileged’ to have access to a world-class arts scene ‘made possible through a combination of state funding and the generosity of a relatively small number of public-spirited individuals and corporations,’ Lord Wasserman said.
Giving money was not the only way to support the arts. ‘Active participation by attending concerts and joining choirs, visiting galleries and even occasionally buying a picture or two’ may be even more effective ways of ‘building a rich national cultural life,’ he said. Of even greater importance was encouraging young people to develop a love for the arts and to develop artistic talents: ‘We can do this by encouraging local schools and youth groups to devote more attention to the arts and by volunteering to help them to do so.’
Lord Wasserman said there was more to public support for the arts than state funding. ‘Public support includes what all of us can do, in our families and in our communities, to encourage a new generation of artists to build upon our cultural heritage and take it forward into the future. It is this kind of public support that we must develop and expand.’
The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.
Image: Parliamentary copyright