The Show Can't Go On: Equity demands basic income guarantee for creative workers

On the anniversary of the closure of live performance venues, Equity is calling for the government to introduce a basic income guarantee for creative workers.

16 March 2021 marks a year since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the nationwide closure of theatres, pubs, clubs and other venues. 

These 12 months without live performance have highlighted the long-standing structural issues and pandemic of precarity across the creative sectors. More than one in five Equity members have taken on debt or additional debt since March 2020.

The past year has also exposed the inability of the national welfare system and government support schemes to allow for the specific needs of creative, freelance and intermittent workers. More than 40% of Equity members were unable to access the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Equity is calling for a basic income guarantee for creative workers, that would mean the government offering a simple, universal payment to all creative workers each month - whether or not they're working, during and after coronavirus.


Covid-19 has had a disastrous impact on our members' livelihoods, with the majority of Equity members having all or most of their work cancelled in March 2020 and opportunities across the sector, particularly in live performance, remain significantly limited.

Thousands of our members working as entertainers have had very little opportunity to earn anything in the past year.

Crucially, the government support offered during the pandemic has been inadequate for creative workers. Our latest survey data has shown that:

  • Over 40% of our members have not received help from the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
  • 58% of those who those who did receive help from the SEISS said it was not enough to meet their needs.
  • 1 in 5 of our members are applying or have applied for Universal Credit.
  • Only 9% of our members have received a grant or other funding from Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Arts Council Northern Ireland or Creative Scotland.


A Basic Income Guarantee for Creative Workers would mitigate against  the problems faced by workers in our industries in our existing welfare provisions and additional Coronavirus support schemes.

Such a scheme would:

  • Offer creative workers financial stability, enabling them to remain in the sector through the pandemic
  • Ensure that creative workers are free to take work when it arises without fear of losing other forms of support and protection
  • Ensure that those from backgrounds which are already under-represented in the industry are not forced out of entertainment work, and that new entrants to the profession are not deterred
  • Protect an industry which is worth £112 billion per year to the UK, in addition to providing immense social and cultural value.

This isn't a pipe dream - in the Republic of Ireland, the government is examining a recommendation, hard won by our sister union, to do just that. France's similar system dates back to the 1930s, and Spain is trialling a minimum basic income for all its citizens.

The creative workforce urgently needs a basic income guarantee to protect workers against crises, and ensure that everyone can stay in the industry during turbulent times – not just those with the financial backing and security to do so.

For our industry to recover from this crisis, our members need meaningful and reliable financial support. Without a basic income guarantee for creative workers, the show can’t go on.

Join our rally at 18.00 tonight on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, and hear the stories of members affected by this crisis at #TheShowMustGoOn.