06 March 2020
A delegation of Equity members led by union President Maureen Beattie presented an open letter to the Prime Minister at Number 10 today. Please see below for the letter.
Dear Prime Minister,
An Open Letter on the future of the UK Creative Industries
I am writing to you as President of Equity, a union representing more than 48,000 people working across the creative industries – in film, television, audio, games and live entertainment.
As the vast majority of the members of Equity, including myself, do not understand Ancient Greek I hope you will make allowances for me quoting the great mathematician, inventor and astronomer Archimedes, in translation:
“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the world.”
And here you are with not only a place to stand, but a lever in the shape of your majority in government.
My question to you is: “How will you use this extraordinary opportunity to support the workers in the entertainment industry who bring kudos and such vast amounts of wealth into the UK?”
Perhaps the reason why people still come from all over the world to see what many consider to be the best theatre on the planet is because of the UK’s subsidised system, where so many of our world class players honed their craft. A system which is dying for the lack of basic nourishment.
I would also argue that one of the reasons why the UK is still a player in the world is because of the soft power of the BBC and the opportunity it provides to showcase the best of our creative talent. I would remind you of the BBC’s great motto - “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation”. In these turbulent times what could be better than that?
Overall the creative industries contribute £101.5 billion to the economy, growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. The performing arts alone contribute at least £5.4 billion, and every £1 of local arts investment generates £4 for the local economy. And yet so often the first thing to be cut when local budgets are tightened is the arts.
The ability of all people working in the entertainment industry to move freely between the countries of the EU has been a vital part of the success the UK enjoys in Europe and throughout the world. Your own ministers have highlighted the importance of free movement for musicians in the EU. The very same concerns impact on our members – singers, dancers, stage managers, street performers, circus artists, models, choreographers, directors, designers; performers and creatives of every kind. If our creative workers cannot travel freely for work the impact on their working lives will be devastating.
I’m sure that you do not need me to detail all the benefits of the arts in education. As someone who was educated at a school that boasts a fully equipped theatre with five professional staff and an artistic director, I know that you will understand the importance of giving young people the opportunity to flourish within the disciplines of the entertainment industry. If the arts are such a key selling point in the world of the rich and powerful then surely the benefits of arts education should be available to everyone.
What do I ask of you and your government?
Please do all that you can to protect the BBC - the BBC allows us to understand each other through world-class news, documentary and drama.
Support our call for a reciprocal and affordable two-year visa for all creative workers covering all EU member states and eliminating the need for carnets and other permits.
Spread investment in the creative industries around the UK. The best place to start is to restore local authority funding.
Place arts and creative subjects back at the heart of the curriculum and direct the government’s arts pupil premium towards ensuring that every child has the opportunity to experience theatre.
Increase funding for the arts to 0.5% of GDP in the forthcoming budget - a crucial investment for our economy.
Yours in hope,
Maureen Beattie OBE
President of Equity