ISM and Equity have coordinated an open letter which has been signed by 120 organisations and industry bodies.
The letter, sent to the chancellor yesterday (19 August), calls on the government to extend financial support for freelancers working in the performing arts and entertainment industries until the spring of 2021.
Creative industry bodies have warned that cultural venues cannot afford to reopen on the basis of social distancing and stated that without a financial intervention targeted at the freelance community, the government risks the devastation of the performing arts and an exodus of highly skilled talent.
Indoor live performances were recently given the go ahead as part of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. However, professional body the Incorporated Society of Musicians fear venues will struggle to reopen because smaller audiences mean less profit from ticket sales.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians, said: ‘Many of the ISM’s members are in despair. From full time gigging musicians to top flight opera singers, they have had no work since March and are without any prospect of work.
‘The reality of socially distanced performances means that most venues simply cannot afford to reopen leaving the vast majority of musicians without work. Musicians are in desperate financial difficulty. Some are leaving the profession while others are working as delivery drivers to make ends meet. This is not the way to look after our talented musician workforce.
‘We call on the government to put in place a tailored financial support scheme for the self-employed creative workforce, who are the lifeblood of the performing arts until venues can properly reopen. If the government does not support actors, musicians and technicians until they can work again in those venues, then we are looking at the devastation of the performing arts and an exodus of highly skilled talent.
'Musicians are in desperate financial difficulty. Some are leaving the profession while others are working as delivery drivers to make ends meet. This is not the way to look after our talented musician workforce.'
Paul Fleming, general secretary-elect, Equity, said: ‘Equity’s members are heading toward a cliff edge with a parachute full of holes. The SEISS excluded some of the lowest paid and most under-represented self-employed artists from the beginning, and now it’s going to be ripped away from even those who were covered. Taxpayers are seeing their money used to shutter buildings instead of supporting artists they love and funding safe reopening. Unless the government introduces meaningful income support for our members until reopening and beyond, we’ll barely have a workforce left.’
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support the arts sector during this crisis. Around 75,000 people who work in the arts have received more than £200m in government grants though our self-employment support scheme – with a second payment now available to those in need.
‘This is in addition to a historic £1.57bn support package for UK culture to help the hardest hit organisations through the crisis and protect the jobs they provide, ensuring work continues to flow to freelancers.’