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Ex-WWE marketing boss named UK culture secretary

Michelle Donelan has been named as the UK’s eighth culture secretary in five years as part of a cabinet reshuffle by new prime minister Liz Truss.

Donelan, who succeeds Nadine Dorries in the post, worked in the media and entertainment business prior to becoming an MP in 2015, serving stints with Pacific Magazines, The History Channel and WWE (World Wresting Entertainment), where was employed as an international marketing communications manager.

She was appointed education minister in 2021 and was briefly education secretary this past July, stepping down after 48 hours amid mass resignations by more than 50 government members in protest at then PM Boris Johnson’s leadership.

Live music trade bodies have welcomed Donelan to her new role while stressing the urgent challenges facing the sector.

“Congratulations to Michelle Donelan MP on her appointment as secretary of state at DCMS,” says outgoing Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed. “It remains a uniquely challenging time for festivals as we look to the 2023 season. Although now fully operational, we are still in a recovery phase, facing an ongoing perfect storm of rising costs, supply chain issues, record low consumer confidence and audiences making extremely difficult choices due to the cost of the living crisis.

“We look forward to working closely with the minister and ensuring appropriate interventions and support for our culture defining festival sector, which generates £1.76bn GVA for the UK economy annually and supports 85,000 jobs.”

“We need urgent government action on the energy crisis which threatens to permanently close hundreds of grassroots music venues”

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT), meanwhile, has used the opportunity to reiterate the need for intervention to combat the surge in energy bills that threatens the future of around 30% of the entire network of venues.

“We need urgent government action on the energy crisis which threatens to permanently close hundreds of grassroots music venues,” says venue support manager Clare Cullen in a social media post. “In the short term this will require financial interventions to tackle extraordinary price rises. In the longer term, we need [Donelan’s] department to investigate the energy market for music venues (and the rest of the hospitality sector) and to work with us to find a way to to make energy supply reliable, sustainable, and affordable.”

With MVT chief Mark Davyd previously revealing that Dorries was the first culture secretary to decline a meeting with the organisation since it was founded in 2014, the organisation is keen to establish a relationship with her successor.

“The UK’s grassroots music venues face multiple challenges to their resilience, sustainability and economic viability,” says Cullen in an open letter to Donelan. “These challenges are solvable. Music Venue Trust would like to invite you to attend a Parliamentary event on 14 September in which we will be describing just one of these solutions – our plan to change the ownership model so that the music community itself has a say in the future if grassroots music venue. We need to #ownourvenues

“We want a working relationship with you and your department that delivers positive change for UK artists and venues. To that end we have today formally requested a meeting with you at your earliest opportunity. Music Venue Trust has met with eight of the nine previous secretaries of state for DCMS that have held this post since our creation in 2014. We look forward to meeting with you so we can begin the work of creating a truly world beating grassroots live music sector.”


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