Stop the Cuts and save the arts

Let’s tell candidates standing in the General Election on 4 July that cuts to the arts must end.

Email your parliamentary candidates now
Group of Equity members with Stop the Cuts banners and flags at demo

This General Election, we’re asking you to help us save the arts.

Over the past twenty years, arts funding has been put on the chopping block time and time again. Since 2017, arts funding from UK arts councils has been cut by 16% in real terms. Funding in England has dropped by 11%, in Wales by 30% and in Northern Ireland by 16%.

Now, ahead of the General Election, we’re asking you to take a series of easy steps to put arts funding firmly on the national agenda and demand an end to the devastating cuts to the arts that we’ve seen over the past 20 years.

Arts funding changes in your constituency

Take a look at our arts funding tracker to see how funding from national bodies (Arts Councils in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, alongside Creative Scotland) has changed in your constituency. 

Use these figures to tell your constituency candidates why it’s essential that they oppose the cuts and fight for proper funding for the arts.

Arts funding tracker

Take action today to save the arts

When we head to the polls on the 4 July, we want every candidate to know that voters in the UK want decent arts funding and an end to the cuts. 

Email your constituency candidates

Use our quick email template to contact everyone standing to be your constituency MP. Ask them to oppose the cuts to arts and entertainment funding and fight to increase budgets over the next parliament.

Search our arts funding tracker to look up changes to arts funding in your constituency and use the data to tell your candidates why it’s essential they fight for arts funding.

Attend your local hustings

Hustings are a great way to meet your local candidates, learn more about their positions and policies, and get them to make important commitments on arts funding ahead of election day.

We need to get prospective MPs on board with our vision for an industry that creates good jobs for Equity members and working people in the industry.

We want you to attend your local hustings, if you have one in your local area. Once you attend a hustings, you can raise the issue of arts funding by asking this question:

UK arts council funding has been cut by 16% over the last five years, and in this constituency we have lost [insert % of cuts for constituency from the Arts Funding Tracker]. How will you defend and extend local arts funding if elected to parliament?

You can use our Arts Funding Tracker to find the data for funding cuts in your local area.

We are not asking you to organise your own hustings. Getting our question in front of candidates before the election is a really great way to put our issues on top of the agenda.

If you need any help attending your local hustings, or have questions, please contact the campaign team on campaigns@equity.org.uk

Do you need a proxy vote?

Only by voting can you have your say on the future of arts funding in the UK and call for an end to the years of devastating cuts. If you can't vote in person on 4 July, you can still register for a proxy vote by 5pm on 26 June. 

Our General Election demands to all parties

1. Increase UK arts & entertainment funding to 0.5% of GDP
Bring the UK into line with the European average for arts funding, and provide £1bn of new funding for the devolved nations.

2. Scrap the ‘tax on hope’
End the legal exemption which allows casting directories to charge upfront fees to performing artists.

3. Abolish the Minimum Income Floor
Reform Universal Credit to provide freelancers with the same protections as the employed.

4. Require all publicly funded work to be produced on Equity agreements
Ensure that any arts and entertainment work which receives public subsidy – including government tax breaks – is made on union-agreed terms and conditions.

5. Defend and extend trade union bargained royalties
Ratify the Beijing treaty to give unions a statutory right to bargain from – including in un-unionised areas like video-games and TV commercials.

Why we need to act: Closed venues, lost jobs & axed education

  • The creative industries are fundamental to future UK prosperity, making up nearly 6% of GDP, but over the last two decades we have seen funding decimated in the arts and entertainment.
  • The workforce, audiences and communities have been forced to bear the brunt of this decline through job losses, closed venues, and the axing of arts education.
  • Working class representation in creative industries is at the lowest level in decades because of the systemic underfunding and undervaluing of arts education.

What we've done so far 

Ahead of the local council and Mayoral elections on 2 May 2024, over 15,000 Equity members signed petitions calling for arts funding to be protected and thousands more wrote to their local councilors or raised the issue at a local question time. We've led marches, meetings and rallies. We’ve had wins across the UK. And we've shown politicians that voters value the arts.

But the fight didn't end on 2 May.
 
With a general election on 4 July, we need to focus our efforts on candidates standing for election as MPs. Will they pledge to protect the arts or won’t they?

There’s strength in a union - if we all keep making noise we can put arts funding firmly on the national agenda.


 

Where we’ve fought these cuts already: Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, Equity launched an enormous campaign to resist cuts from Arts Council Northern Ireland handed down by unelected civil servants whilst Stormont was in deadlock. This was the last straw after the sector swallowed over 40% cuts to the Arts Council budget over the last decade.

Union members swung into action with a huge 12,500 signature petition, building support from MLAs, MPs and local councillors. Hundreds turned up to our #ResistTheCuts rallies outside Belfast City Hall and the Department for Communities. Now that power-sharing has been restored, we hoped to persuade Stormont that the arts is worth investing in. However, a standstill budget for 2024 means that we must fight on.

Resist the cuts in Northern Ireland
Stop the Cuts rally in Bristol with flags and banners

Where we’ve fought these cuts already: Bristol

In 2023 Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees announced sweeping cuts to arts funding in Bristol, all under a cloak of secrecy. Our members in Bristol demanded answers, and they stood up to fight. The branch set up a petition, called a big rally outside City Hall, and tabled public questions at Council meetings to cross examine the Mayor in front of the press.

We discovered badly managed funding processes, and a fear of transparency. We won commitments to clearer processes, and quicker funding decisions for our members. But this wasn’t enough for the branch. That’s why in this local election, we want to make sure every politician feels the heat from Equity – and ensure that the next time the Council comes for arts funding, they know we’ll be ready.

Sign saying "fund artists we improve life"

Where we’ve fought these cuts already: Suffolk

In Janaury 2024, Suffolk County Council announced a 100% cut to their culture budget. The union sprung into action, setting up a petition, calling a protest outside Council offices, gaining the support of political candidates, and speaking to audience goers, parents of SEND kids, and teachers in schools, to build support to oppose these cuts. Within weeks we won a concession of a replacement fund of £500,000.

This was progress, but we weren’t satisfied, so we announced our own alternative funding plan for the arts, and mobilised hundreds of members and audience goers to email Suffolk Councillors to demand they support our proposals. We’ll take this work into the local elections to ensure politicians know we will keep them accountable.