Becoming the Parliamentary Ambassador for the Performing Arts

I have always been an avid supporter of theatre, opera, ballet and music and, therefore, I was delighted to accept the role of Parliamentary Ambassador for the performing arts.

It means that I will act as their champion, fostering relations between the sector, parliament and government.

The performing arts have been a passion of mine throughout my life but I know there are those who believe they are not essential part of our lives.

Actually, it is proven that they are most important during times of conflict and strife.

A report by The University of Derby has highlighted how performing arts teach us to express our culture, emotions and beliefs as well as helping educate us about the world we live in.

It makes the point that we need the distraction of watching a show or film to help us relax – away from everyday pressures.

The university report rightly highlights the significant benefit to the economy of the performing arts thanks largely to the millions of us who listen to music or watch television every day.

In my view, Derbyshire could become a cultural icon within the United Kingdom because of our rich seam of talent which too often goes unnoticed.

For instance, there is the incredible work of Derby’s Pauline Quirke Academy who last year performed in London's West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

As the academy’s principal, Dean Foy, says: “Singing, dancing, acting, film-making and many more great opportunities, make this an academy to be proud of!”

Another example, for more than 25 years, has been LEVEL which, every year, helps 6,000 people with learning disabilities to develop a culture of creativity.

Meanwhile, in Derby, Deda, Symphonia Viva and Derby Theatre are hallmarks of quality and, every year, I look forward to Belper Arts Festival as well as other fabulous festivals, shows and events which prove how close the performing arts are to our hearts.

There may be some who believe taking on such a role may appear frivolous against the backdrop of the serious Brexit negotiations but I emphasise this will be in addition to my current duties.

I must emphasise I will still play a full role in parliamentary debates and constituency work.

However, I am proud to have been given a senior role in a sector in which 75 per cent of adults and 95 per cent of children take part and which can tackle issues such as mental health, community cohesion and loneliness.

It is one of the largest and most diverse sectors in the UK with involvement from the largest commercial organisations to micro-businesses.

We should be proud that we are a world leader in the field and want to continue to be.

Four years ago, a research survey of 1,500 parents whose children attended performing arts activities saw dramatic results.

69% felt that children generally had poorer social skills than 20 years previously and 77% believed that this was down to the growing obsession with technology.

However, more than 90% of parents surveyed believe their child felt more confident at school, with 85% seeing an improvement in academic results since their involvement in performing arts.

The parents said the children now listened attentively, found innovative solutions to problems and empathy, imagination and had much improved general happiness.

Such findings should be our motivation and it is now part of my job to influence local authorities and decision-making bodies to realise how lives are being transformed by the performing arts and I look forward to working with Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to make sure even more people enjoy the wide-ranging benefits.