Last night the government released further details of the £1.57 billion package for the arts. The figure of £500 million to support theatres, music and comedy venues and museums makes for stark reading this morning. The figure is pitiful and the realities of the situation for our world class freelance theatre workforce are now all too clear.
Organisations and institutions are expected to apply for funds to be supported to survive for the rest of the financial year where the money will be barely enough to keep the majority of them alive. Larger companies will have to apply for loans if their needs cannot be covered by grants of up to £3million. The money is being allocated to enable a handful of institutions to survive based on international, national or local significance.
We were standing on a precipice – we have just been pushed over the edge
In recent weeks the word “freelance” has successfully made it into speeches everywhere. Our particular situation has been singled out in both the DCMS and the Treasury select committee papers on the effect of the Covid pandemic. However, despite the government acknowledging both the scale and the gravity of the effects of the pandemic on our workforce and being encouraged by their own MPs and civil servants to ensure the freelance workers are given financial help, they have chosen to do nothing. There is nothing in this distribution of funds to directly support any of the creative individuals who make the shows that, we are told, are so well loved. We were standing on a precipice – we have just been pushed over the edge.
The press release mentions how grateful various amongst the great and the good are for the cash but these words feel hollow, ridiculous even. We cannot be asked to be grateful for nothing. We are not grateful. We continue to be ignored.
The coming months are going to be hard. The few amongst us who have qualified for any financial help will join the many who have already received nothing. While the subsidised companies will have to work out ways to limp through and protect small numbers of their permanent workforce, huge numbers of us are going to have to turn away, to seek new employment in other industries or to look to the benefit system as we are forced to seek support elsewhere.
If live theatre does make any kind of come back in the late spring of 2021 then who will be left to speak the words, to create the world, to make the work? A privileged few? How does this in any way reflect the Conservative central policy of levelling up?
Freelancers Make Theatre Work will continue to stand for each and every freelancer. The sub committee acknowledgements are a clear indication that there is support for us within government so we need to continue lobbying at this level. We will reach out to ADs in the coming days to remind them that, in order for the wider sector to survive, the responsibility towards freelancers must belong to everyone and their decisions over the coming months will hugely affect the larger ecology. We will also write to MPs directly and will provide an email template that we urge all freelancers to use.
We will continue to push the conversations where we can, to highlight the precarious situation that we are in, and look for ways in which freelancers can be supported.
-Freelancers Make Theatre Work
It is hugely important to voice the concerns of the freelance theatre community to the Government after the announcement of the £1.57 billion investment package and their recent update on how the support will be distributed.