10 September 2020
There is overwhelming consensus that the arts and entertainment industries are facing an existential crisis – we need support now to safeguard workplaces and jobs.
What we know:
- Around 40% of Equity members have not been able to get support from Government support packages.
- Just over 1 in 5 of our members have applied for Universal Credit, and a further 29% of report that they are not eligible to make a claim because of a range of issues
- 17% of members are now working outside the entertainment industry
- A further 20% are actively looking for other work outside theatre
In the immediate term – we need a plan to protect jobs and workplaces
Equity’s 4 pillar plan outlines the necessary foundations for recovery in live performance and addresses the fundamental challenges we face as one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy.
We are a successful and growing industry, worth £112bn to the economy, with huge further potential to contribute to the transformation of cities, towns and regions all over the UK. But all of this is built on the hard work, skills and talent of thousands of freelance and self-employed workers who must not be left behind in recovery plans.
The creative sector cannot recover without investment in both workplaces and workers. Equity’s 47,000 members campaigned for, and welcomed, the Government’s rescue package for the arts but it is becoming increasingly clear that the £1.57bn promised will not directly help them. Redundancy consultations and demands for pay cuts and reductions to terms and conditions are continuing at many arts organisations all over the country even among those hoping to receive funding from the rescue package.
Re-opening theatres, film and television sets and venues is not enough. The reality of the phased return of performances and in the months ahead is that work opportunities will remain severely limited for tens of thousands of self-employed creatives including actors, singers, dancers, directors, designers, comedians, choreographers, stage management and many more live entertainment workers.
Government and the industry need to protect and preserve the livelihoods of thousands of people whose skills and talents are the basis of our success, and especially freelance and self-employed creatives who are at the greatest risk of being left behind.
Without investment, the first to leave the sector are likely to be our black, older, working class, D/deaf and disabled and women workers, further worsening the diversity of the industry.
We call on Government to urgently implement the four pillars through an investment plan for our industry:
Pillar 1: Workforce protection
Pillar 2: Safe Opening
Pillar 3: Protecting Infrastructure
Pillar 4: Equality
- Workforce Protection
Fewer productions, reduced cast sizes and social distancing measures will have a massive impact on work opportunities in the months ahead, leading to an exodus of skilled freelance and self-employed workers from the industry, with the most under-represented groups likely to leave first. Variety artists, comedians and performers working across live entertainment also need ongoing support for the tough months ahead.
- Extension and Reform of the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employed Income support Scheme for the creative sector
- Additional support for those who have fallen through the gaps in Government support schemes and are unlikely to be able to earn a living for many more months
- Safe Opening and #SeatOutToHelpOut
In the short term it may be possible for a limited range of live performance activity to resume including circus, small scale and independent theatre. Some larger arts organisations may be able to explore different ways of working and partial re-opening, but will need further financial support to do so, in the context of reduced ticket revenue. For the commercial sectors, the West End, variety and other forms of live entertainment a range of difficulties from re-staging to the investment required to adapt buildings will be incredibly challenging and will have a knock on effect for other sectors including hospitality, tourism and retail.
- Encouragement of digital streaming and multi-venue relays with a proviso that exploitation of performances must include fair remuneration for creatives.
- Continuation of VAT relief for ticket sales post January 2021
- Exploration of a ticketing subsidy for venues when conditions allow larger-scale opening along the lines of the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme in hospitality – Equity backs calls for a #SeatOutToHelpOut scheme to kickstart re-opening in 2021.
- Protecting infrastructure
The UK has a wealth of cultural infrastructure, from community hubs, pubs and comedy clubs, dance venues, nightclubs, which must be protected at this time when they cannot easily generate revenue.
- Detail as to how the £1.57bn will be distributed throughout the industry including to smaller venues, comedy clubs, live entertainment and variety venues and the wider arts industry, beyond the big institutions
- A commitment to a cultural contract similar to the model in Wales whereby organisations in receipt of rescue funding must indicate how their future plans will satisfy requirements to provide fair work, environmental sustainability and diversity at decision maker level and in the workforce.
We must protect the interests of underrepresented groups as we consider the return to work and robustly ensure that older workers, disabled workers and carers for shielded groups are explicitly acknowledged and included. It is also vital that we acknowledge the significant impact of coronavirus on black and minority communities. Moving forward we must take advantage of opportunities through new casting and working practices across both live and recorded media to reach our long-term policy objective of achieving an industry that is open and accessible to all regardless of protected characteristics or class.
- Equality impact assessments on all Guidance from DCMS as the re-opening situation develops
- Any Government subsidy for engagers and employers must be attached to clear organisation-specific commitments to eliminate gaps in representation and pay and to produce the most diverse seasons yet when re-opening is possible.
- All Guidance must include specific reference and where necessary further research into shielding groups and those caring for them, and how to integrate them back into the workforce effectively.
What you can do:
If you have 1 minute:
- Sign the Four Pillars Petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/332353 and share on social media
- Support #SeatOutToHelpOut on social meda
If you have 5 minutes:
- Make a submission to the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review by 24th September: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/J5ZC01/ calling for a #SeatOutToHelpOut Scheme, a reformed and extended support package for creative workers and grants for those who have fallen through the gaps in the SEISS and JRS.
- Take part in our Four Pillars survey and help support our evidence to Government: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/FourPillarPlan
- Write to your MP: https://www.equity.org.uk/news/2020/july/equity-calls-on-government-to-explain-how-rescue-package-will-help-creative-workforce/