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Darren praises Bristol Charity in Parliament

On Wednesday I spoke in a debate about the effect of arts on health. Amongst other things, I praised Bristol Music Trust for their work in increasing arts access, and called for support for the Musicians’ Union campaign for free movement for musicians.

WATCH here:

Read the full text of the speech here:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate Mr Vaizey on securing this important debate. I agree with the Arts Council, which says:

“Art and culture make life better, help to build diverse communities and improve our quality of life.”

As a Bristol MP, I am proud of the reputation my great city has in support for and delivery of the arts. I say to the Minister, whose Department is making the decision on the Channel 4 relocation, that Bristol is its natural home. Channel 4 would be welcomed with open arms, supported by a booming sector with expertise and a vision for the future of broadcasting.

As the Member for Bristol North West, I represent a constituency of haves and have-nots when it comes to access to the arts. For many of my constituents, getting to and accessing the best of Bristol’s art and culture is economically unviable. That is why I welcome the excellent work of Bristol’s Colston Hall, and the Bristol Music Trust, which works from it, in reaching out to distant communities to bring affordable arts to the many, not just the few. I also congratulate them on their funding efforts to build the first fully accessible music venue in the country.

In Bristol, we rely on performers from across the world and, indeed, Europe. I therefore call on the Minister and the Government to support the Musicians Union’s call for a commitment to ensuring the free movement of musicians.

I will conclude my remarks by talking about music and performance. As a child growing up in Lawrence Weston in my consistency—a council estate on the outskirts of Bristol—I never really got to experience the arts, but one Christmas, when I was in primary school, there was a performance from a local orchestra. There I was, sat on the floor, amazed by the noise that the musicians produced and the sound that they created, together, as an outfit. I decided that that was what I wanted to do, so I went to Portway Community School, now Oasis Academy Brightstowe, which had an amazing school orchestra, led at the time by Nicola Berry, and I learned the tenor saxophone—first, in the symphonic wind orchestra and, latterly, as a jazz musician.

Thanks to predecessors of the Bristol Music Trust, I got access to instruments, one-on-one tuition, music and the ability to practise and take my grades—because of public funding. Music taught me discipline and teamwork, and built my confidence, but public funds are required for pupils whose parents cannot afford to provide them with access to music. Children from low-income families are three times more likely to get a degree if they have been involved in arts and culture than those who have not.

I am always grateful to the people who gave me that opportunity and I call on the Government to ensure that other children, in my constituency and around the country, are not left behind. We must not let the music halls of our schools fall silent across the country. Our performance and confidence as young people, as cities and as a country is based on arts and culture. I hope that the Government will continue to invest in and support local authorities and charities to ensure that all of us, regardless of background, have access to excellent arts and culture training and performance, and the ability to build our confidence for roles such as becoming a Member of Parliament in the future.

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Darren visits Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones, made an educational visit to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC) today (28th September) to gain a wider insight into paediatric palliative care.

Darren met with the palliative care and bereavement support team at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children to talk about the team’s key roles at the hospital and the delivery of palliative care locally and regionally.

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Darren Jones MP calls for community meeting on local ASB

Bristol North West Member of Parliament, Darren Jones, has today (31st August) met with Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens and Andy Bennett, Bristol Commander and discussed concerns regarding ASB in the Southmead area.
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Labour MP calls for local views on Childcare

With the imminent introduction of a major new government-funded childcare scheme, many parents have struggled to register on the Childcare Choices website. Darren Jones MP is launching a survey for Bristol North West’s parents and childcare providers to share their views and experiences on the scheme, and more generally on local childcare provision. With council children’s service budgets also facing unprecedented pressure, due to government funding cuts, Darren is also keen to hear from those working in this sector.

The new childcare schemes include tax-free childcare, launched in July, as well as 30 hours’ free term time childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, which launches in September.

Alongside the online technical issues, concerns have been raised about the need for parents to earn (on average) £120 per week, that free childcare is term time only and that childcare must be blocked booked. The policy has been criticised as being difficult to navigate for the many parents employed full time, year-round and especially for parents on flexible or zero hours contracts.

Childcare providers have also highlighted their concerns that the funding received from government does not realistically cover the costs of childcare and they are having to recoup costs in other ways or face closure.

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