Campaign Activity

Equity members take to Whitehall to say NO to arts cuts

Hundreds of Equity members including actress Juliet Stevenson, joined councillors and officials yesterday outside DCMS in resistance to the ongoing assault of the arts.

Equity members, including Juliet Stevenson, join councillors and officials outside DCMS

The demonstration brought together our members and supporters of our campaign — as well as BECTU, the Musicians' Union, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and PCS. We were also joined by workers from affected arts organisations such the English National Opera (ENO), which stands to lose 100% of its Arts Council England (ACE) funding, putting over 300 jobs at risk.

Since the announcement of the cuts the Government have claimed they are part of a "levelling up agenda", However, while 70% of cuts fall within London, the overwhelming majority of organisations removed from the portfolio fall outside of London.

Speakers included ENO chorister and Equity Dep, Deborah Davison, who told the crowd:

We [at the ENO] have over 3000 years of experience between us that form our collective performance on stage… most of these people will lose their jobs and their livelihoods - is this really what successful levelling-up looks like?

Deborah Davison, ENO chorister and Equity Dep, addresses the protesters at DCMS
Deborah Davison, ENO chorister and Equity Dep, addresses the protesters at DCMS

Also speaking was Labour MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome. While welcoming funding for arts organisations in Nottingham, Nadia noted that this should not be at the expense of other areas:

We shouldn’t be pitting theatre against theatre, area against area. We are fighting over crumbs when we should be demanding a bigger pie… The narrative goes “Would you rather cuts benefits or arts?” but these aren’t real choices, they [the Government] don’t have to make these cuts — they choose to.

Likewise, Equity Councillor Zainab Hasan told the demo: 

We cannot buy into the London vs regions lie. Do not let them divide and conquer us.

Zainab Hasan, Equity Councillor, addresses protesters at DCMS
Zainab Hasan, Equity Councillor, addresses protesters at DCMS

Actress and fellow Equity member Juliet Stevenson was also in attendance, she commented:

The Government's line that this is 'Levelling Up' makes no sense at all. Spreading slashed funding more thinly doesn't help our economy or communities anywhere in the UK. This is an agenda of cultural vandalism to silence innovative work, attack terms and conditions, and throw arts funding into the hands of a wealthy few.

Our General Secretary Paul W. Fleming was the final speaker before the ENO chorus closed the demonstration with a final rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

This demonstration followed two marches on Arts Council England (ACE) offices in London and Manchester last week, calling for the reversal of funding cuts

Yesterday’s demonstration was alongside a letter to Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stating the union’s demands for an increase to UK arts funding that would enable Arts Council England to reverse cuts to culture organisations.

Read the letter

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