HC Deb 01 July 1996 vol 280 cc536-7
3. Mr. Hain

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what support is available for choirs from (a) her Department and (b) the national lottery. [33660]

The Minister of State, Department of National Heritage (Mr. kin Sproat)

My Department's funding for the arts in England—including choir—is channelled through the Arts Council of England and the regional arts boards. Choirs are eligible to apply for lottery funding. So far, 13 awards totalling £373,000 have been made by the Arts Councils of England and Wales.

Mr. Hain

My colleagues are inciting me to sing this question, but I shall resist the temptation. Is the Minister aware that Welsh choirs play an important role in their local communities and do a great deal of important charitable work? Neath is a centre of excellence for male-voice choirs and the Minister would be welcome to attend any of their performances and would be given a warm Welsh welcome. May I invite him to Cor Cochion Caerdydd's performance next Wednesday in the Jubilee Room? The fact that it is translated as the Welsh "Reds Choir" may mean that he will find himself otherwise engaged.

Mr. Sproat

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind invitation. I know from our previous discussion of the close interest that he takes in the half a dozen choirs in the Neath area. The fact that the Arts Council of Wales has made some eight lottery awards to choirs shows how much it values them. Indeed, the whole country does. There are now some 100 male-voice choirs in Wales, of which it is encouraging to know that some two thirds have been started in the past 40 years.

Sir Roger Sims

I suspect, Madam Speaker, that you would rule me out of order if I were to burst into song. Does my hon. Friend accept that thousands of people throughout the country in all walks of life derive great pleasure from singing with choral societies, as I do with the Royal Choral Society? Does he recognise that, although choirs can attract audiences sufficient to meet their costs for carol concerts and performances such as the Messiah, it is much more difficult for them to put on many other wonderful choral works unless they have financial assistance from the sources that he mentioned?

Mr. Sproat

Yes. My hon. Friend is right about the great popularity of choirs. Some 250,000 people regularly sing in choirs. On my hon. Friend's wish to give choirs more money, there are the lottery boards that I have already mentioned—five in England and eight in Wales—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly publish a document on the arts, which will make funds to amateur organisations that we wish to support even more easily come by.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the Minister know that St. John's methodist chapel, Connah's Quay, has a very good choir, and that it is mixed to boot? Does he know how I might obtain £100,000 for the chapel, which needs to be modernised and refurbished? Will he receive a deputation, or advise how that amount of money can be obtained from the lottery?

Mr. Sproat

Yes. I remember the wonderful introduction that the hon. Gentleman gave me to the Liverpool Philharmonic a couple of years ago. If he can do as well with that chapel, I should be glad to meet any deputation that he cares to bring to me.

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