Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP Chancellor of the Exchequer Her Majesty’s Treasury
Cultural Recovery Fund Guidelines
Freelancers Make Theatre Work is a campaign that was set up in lockdown to advocate for the hundreds of thousands of people who make up the Freelance Performing Arts Workforce in the UK.
We are writing to urgently request an amendment to the guidance of the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) to enable Arts Council England (ACE) to directly distribute a portion of the remaining CRF monies directly to the Freelance Theatre Workforce.
We recognise that many cultural workers across the UK have benefited immensely from the CJRS and SEISS. We are extremely grateful that, through both this support and the CRF, HMT has recognised the contribution that the creative industries make to the UK economy. This investment has undoubtedly protected jobs and the wider sector, ensuring that the performing arts will be better placed to return to its world-beating position on the global stage as a direct result of government action.
However, as our attached interim report illustrates over 81% of the workforce on a typical production are freelance, 90% of organisations reported that freelancers are essential to them starting to make performance again and 85% reported that freelancers are essential to their organisations’ long-term recovery plans.
The only route to employing freelancers at a meaningful scale is through production, which to date has not been possible at any scale due to Covid Restrictions and understandably fluctuating Tier systems. This means that the core theatre workforce are facing severe under-employment or unemployment.
In addition, the Routes to Recovery report that Freelancers Make Theatre Work sent to DCMS in the Summer, shows that 36% of the Freelance Theatre Workforce has not been eligible for any form of government support of any kind and that one third of the Freelance Theatre Workforce are in imminent threat of leaving the industry altogether.
The current Government Guidance states that the key focus of the CRF is to maintain England’s cultural ecology by supporting significant organisations, which were financially sustainable before Covid-19 but are now at imminent risk of failure and have exhausted all other options for increasing their resilience. This guidance inhibits the direct distribution of CRF funds to the freelancers.
As reflected above, a lack of targeted investment in the Freelance Workforce will have a direct and significant negative impact on the recovery of the theatre industry, particularly as we move towards a period of reopening. This investment is crucial in enabling freelancers to maintain essential skills that have taken years to develop and underpin the quality of the performance work made across the UK.
Moreover Routes to Recovery states that 86% of people of colour employed by National Portfolio Organisations are freelancers and 42% D/deaf and disabled freelancers reported that they are likely to leave the theatre industry. We are aware that the DCMS, the Arts Council and sector leaders have worked to address historical exclusions from arts and culture. However, without action to enable support for freelancers this work will be undone.
We believe that creating the potential for a portion of the remaining CRF to be allocated towards engaging and sustaining freelancers will overcome the potentially disastrous negative multiplier effects of an under- or unemployed workforce within our sector. we believe that these funds could be distributed effectively by ACE, and that this action would be greatly received within the sector leading to further positive press for DCMS and HMT.
We would be happy to discuss the circumstances faced by freelancers in the cultural sector further and can provide further information if required.
On Behalf of Freelancers Make Theatre Work