Cultural unions publish plan for Midlands recovery

Cultural unions in the Midlands have today called for the establishment of an emergency fund to support cultural workers who have slipped through the current Covid-19 employment support net.

In a new report, the unions suggest that the government’s £1.57bn ‘Cultural Recovery Fund’ (CRF) has been too limited in scope, meaning that job losses continue to devastate the sector, and needs reform to support jobs.

Pointing to predictions that around 2 in every 5 cultural jobs will be lost due to the pandemic, the unions suggest that a regional fund of £42 million should be created using CRF finance to ease the financial pressures faced by thousands of cultural workers in the Midlands.

The report goes on to outline actions needed in the medium term, such as a call for regional stakeholders to commit to a Midlands TV and film studio. The report suggest that the region’s cultural economy has historically failed to reach its full potential due to a lack of strategic vision and has lost out to competitor UK city regions such as London, Manchester and Cardiff.

Equity's Midlands Regional Organiser Ian Bayes said: "Equity has been fighting hard for our members in the Midlands since the start of the pandemic. Together with the TUC and Midlands CLIC we will be campaigning locally and nationally for the implementation of this recovery plan. We already know that 1 in 4 Midlands based Equity members have been forced to claim Universal Credit and 1 in 5 expect to leave the industry, in large part due to the lack of financial support from the Government - up to 40% of creatives have had nothing from furlough or SEISS.

"If the Government is serious about its levelling up agenda, we need urgent investment in our local workforce. The funds are there - £400m of CRF underspend should go to freelancers immediately."

Stephen Brown, TUC Midlands Cultural & Leisure Industries Chair and Musicians’ Union Regional Organiser said: "The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for our members. There is no doubt this has been the hardest year I can ever remember for both the fortunes and mental well-being of our cultural workforce.

“We now have an opportunity to address this and give the cultural sector and all those who work in it some hope for the future. This can be achieved if everyone in the cultural sector pulls together and uses the valuable report we’ve complied on the state of our sector as the springboard for the discussions around what type of recovery we want. Our sector cannot afford not to do this, and Government cannot afford to ignore us.”

TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, Lee Barron said: “Culture is vital. Both for our economy and mental wellbeing. Regionally the cultural sector has too often been overlooked by policy makers. This lack of vision has frustrated our attempts to maximise our potential.

“And now, following a decade of underinvestment and poor strategic vision, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to sink the arts in the midlands with around 2 in 5 jobs predicted to be lost in the West Midlands. We need action. Now. The government must plug the gaps in the inadequate support system for the sector. And we need to get our act together regionally to ensure the midlands emerges from this crisis in a way that enables it to flourish and not fall further behind other city-regions that have taken the lead in recent years.”