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Election 2019 Why I'm Voting Labour: Ken Loach, film-maker

Labour's Charter for the Arts could transform lives

I WAS lucky. In the Midlands town where I grew up, a touring theatre company played for three days every three weeks. It was a varied programme from farce and West End comedies to Shaw and Shakespeare.

With enthusiasm bordering on an obsession, I went to every play, soaking up the atmosphere and staying late to get a glimpse of the actors, exotic beings from another world whose names I can still recall.

There are many reasons for voting Labour. Major issues of social justice, re-founding the NHS on its original principles, a foreign policy based on international law and human rights, reasserting common ownership as the basis for a socialist economy. And, of course, the urgent need to invest massively in green technology and tackle the impending climate disaster.

The regions, so neglected by the Tories and Labour led by Blair and Brown, should have these new industries, with secure jobs and rights won by generations of trade unionists.

But you know all this. What has barely been mentioned is Labour's Charter for the Arts. These bold proposals could transform lives.  There will be an arts premium for all primary school pupils. This will allow teachers to develop children’s creativity and give every child the chance to shine. 

Theatre, music, dance, the visual arts — these can bring self-confidence and just plain enjoyment.  Sport does the same, but not everyone can be good at sport.

The Charter says: “Every child in every corner of the country will have the right to learn a musical instrument.” 

While working in Newcastle, we met an inspirational headteacher, Judy Cowgill,  at Hawthorn Primary School in Elswick.

She and the staff had created a school orchestra on the Venezuelan model. It was a huge success, featured on TV and the children played at the Sage Concert Hall. When they talked about this achievement you could see them bursting with pride.

Youth services are also vital. So much has been cut and so many young people are left with nowhere to gather. Restoring a sense of purpose and showing how young lives are valued is essential — that’s how we defeat alienation, cynicism and hopelessness. 

Of course, it is tied to good, secure jobs that pay a fair wage but Labour has plans for these, too.

There will be £1 billion to transform libraries, museums and galleries. And arts funding should also go to develop regional theatres, concert halls and music venues, and – one day – cinemas that care for film more than fast food!

Labour’s Charter for the Arts reaffirms the promise made in the 1945 Manifesto: “We desire to assure to our people full access to the great heritage of culture in this nation.” As a boy, fulfilling that promise changed my life.  

How many millions of young people will benefit from a similar commitment today?

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