Unions give cautious welcome to new arts funding but need more details

Unions have given a cautious welcome to last night’s government announcement of a £1.57bn support package to help protect the futures of UK theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “At long last the government have woken up to our warnings and those of the whole creative sector, that without support, we stood to lose a huge amount of our world-beating creative industries.

“We will now be scrutinising the details of this package to make sure it lives up to the real needs of our sector.

“We must see the most rapid action to stem the tide of redundancies and closures that are emerging in the sector. For some this is already too late and we will be pushing government to get this funding out there within days.

“The terms of these grants and loans must recognise that there is still a long journey to recovery for theatres and live events and this package is the first cautious step towards reviving the sector.”

“While this support was necessary, the government also needs to think again on support for the forgotten freelancers. They have fallen through the gaps in government support, and it is a scandal that they have been ignored by the government so far.”

A statement from Equity said: “Equity welcomes the scale of the package, but it won’t be money well spent unless each of the union’s four pillars of its live performance re-opening plan are adequately funded.

“Critically, it’s unclear as to how this money will be used on our first pillar- supporting the workforce through this crisis. How will the £880m in grants for the sector support and maintain the freelance and self employed creative workers our UK arts infrastructure depends on?

“If this investment does not reach creative workers – the actors, dancers, stage management, singers, variety artists, directors, designers, choreographers and many other highly skilled workers in our talent base, we risk the diversity and success of the wider creative industries – worth £112bn to the economy. These workers have campaigned for this deal; they can’t be left behind.

“Our question to government is – how will this and future packages preserve the talent base of freelancers, self-employed creatives and staff employed in arts organisations?

“It’s very welcome that this appears to inject meaningful investment into our third pillar: protecting venues & infrastructure. Equity remains hopeful that the details will support all four.”

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “We have been warning government for months about the catastrophic effects that dealing with coronavirus was having on the whole cultural sector.

“It seems like the government has finally decided to act, but the devil will be in the detail.

“The government must start to pump money into organisations in the sector this week if we don’t want to see more job losses and employers folding. There can’t be any more foot dragging. Unions like ours still stand ready to work with government to get this right.

“Now the government have shown they are willing to act on this – it is time for them to act on the ‘forgotten freelancers’ too. These workers, so unfairly left out of government support schemes need some support too.”

MU general secretary Horace Trubridge said: “We’re delighted that the government has answered one of our key lobbying asks by announcing a £1.57bn cultural fund. This is a welcome first step which hopefully ensures that all our great venues and theatres will not go under. Unfortunately, it is still unlikely that musicians who work in these venues will be able to go back to work imminently.

“Given the £5.2bn that the music industry is worth to the UK economy, not to mention the cultural contribution that musicians make, it is vital that our members are able to survive this closure period, which will be far lengthier than for most other workers. 1 in 5 of our members have told us that they may leave music for good if they do not receive further financial support.

“We are therefore urging the government to extend the SEISS and the furlough scheme for creative workers until at least the end of the year. Crucially, 38% of our members do not qualify for either of the government’s assistance schemes so we are also asking that excluded musicians are able to apply for some of the money that has been announced today.”

FDA assistant general secretary Amy Leversidge said: “The FDA welcomes this much needed boost at a time when our cultural institutions have lost huge chunks of income. We look forward to working with institutions on the detail of the package, including how it will be distributed in each of the four nations.

“However, the scale of self-generated income lost by institutions in in the wake of COVID-19 highlights the failure of the government’s current funding models. Across the UK, we have seen direct government funding for our museums and galleries slashed over the last decade and longer, and they simply cannot continue to provide first class experiences with minimal investment.

“The institutions that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 are those that have been able to generate a higher proportion of their income through visitor attractions and have been less reliant on government funding. It is impossible to judge just how quickly these institutions’ revenues will recover and the FDA strongly believes direct support for museums and galleries through grant-in-aid funding must be increased substantially.

“The government must be prepared to invest whatever is needed to safeguard our museums and galleries, protect the national treasures that they hold and ensure the British public continues to have access to its cultural heritage.”

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