July 06, 2020
The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn support package for the arts and culture sector has been enthusiastically welcomed by theatres, music venues and galleries alike. 
The Government’s £1.57bn For The Arts Could Still See Creatives Forced Out
But some within it are raising alarm bells that without money for freelancers, parts of the industry could vanish completely, and leave many of its most underrepresented workers left out in the cold. 
“We’ve already had 36% of freelancers find themselves without any financial support,” Paule Constable, a Olivier and Tony Award-winning lighting designer,  told HuffPost UK.
“When we’ve looked at our figures around who is leaving the industry, who can’t afford to stay, then of course it’s the most vulnerable who are disproportionately hit.”
Britain’s creative industries have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, as venues have been forced to close down around the UK.
Statistics published by the government in February 2020 stated that the sector contributed the equivalent of £306m every single day to the economy, but until Sunday night there was no sign of any tailored help to support creatives. 
But while the announcement has come of something of a relief to many, there are still serious concerns that in a significant number of cases the support has come too little, too late – particularly for the freelancers who support much of the sector but were not specifically included in the announcement. 
Boris Johnson said on Sunday: “From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”
The government has said that decisions on awards will be made in conjunction with expert independent figures from the sector.
The £1.5bn support pot for cultural organisations in England will be made up of £270m of repayable finance and £880m of grants.The funding also includes money for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m), the government said.
But while the funding has been broadly welcomed, huge questions still remain for the 70% of creatives who work on a freelance basis and have seen most – if not all – their work cancelled as a result of the pandemic. 
Paule Constable is part of the Freelancers Make Theatre Work group, which has been campaigning for recognition of the arts throughout the Coronavirus crisis and – in particular – the contribution of freelance workers. She said: “The announcement is absolutely brilliant news, but the devil is in the detail. We need to do what we do best, which is collaborate and make something we haven’t seen before to use the money with fairness and positivity. 
“We all go through this together, the buildings, the commercial sector, the subsidised sector and freelancers – we’re nothing without each other. 
“Those are the most important things to hang on to, but we finally have hope.” 
The fair division of the government funding is paramount, Constable explained, because without specific support for freelancers, some 70% of the industry would vanish – taking with it some of the most underrepresented workers in the industry. 
“We’ve already had 36% of freelancers find themselves without any financial support,” she said. “When we’ve looked at our figures around who is leaving the industry, who can’t afford to stay, then of course it’s the most vulnerable who are disproportionately hit. 
“Huge amounts of people of colour aren’t getting any financial support, as are many disabled performers and art makers. 
“What will happen is we will lose the diversity within our industry, just at the point where it is having to become more inclusive, and needs to be more inclusive. 
“If our direction of travel is towards a more inclusive industry, then we have to take those people with us.” 
Actor Michelle Collins, famous for her roles in EastEnders and Coronation Street, echoed Constable’s concerns around diversity and the fate of small theatres – who provided her and countless others with a first foothold into the industry. 
While she welcomed the government’s announcement “as a start”, she has raised concerns that the sum suggested – once it has been split up amongst the entire cultural sector – won’t be enough to reach the people and places who need it most. She said: “I think they either need to extend the SEISS [Self-Employment Income Support Scheme], or even better, start a creative workers’ support scheme as there are lots of people who have fallen through the gaps. 
“What have people been doing during lockdown? They’ve been entertaining themselves with creative work – watching TV, film, streaming theatre. There’s going to be a massive gap in society if those things fall away. 
“We’re not just talking about the major theatres, I really hope the smaller, regional theatres will see this money too. They don’t just put productions on – they have dementia-friendly cafes, mother-and-baby classes, art galleries. They can be a huge hub for the community. 
“We don’t even know where the money is going yet. Everyone is excited because the news only came out last night, but you go on Twitter and see ‘what about the actors?’, ‘what about the dancers?’,’what about the designers?’. 
“There’s still a long, long way to go.” 
Collins has lost out on at least nine months of work as a result of Covid-19, and has herself fallen through the gaps of government support. With the national tour of Harold Pinter play she was supposed to be on cancelled, she decided to set up a fundraiser to help support actors and creatives who had found themselves suddenly stranded without work. “I know lots of young actors who are having to leave London because they just can’t afford to live here, can’t afford to eat, and there’s no work. It’s a really, really worrying time.”Michelle CollinsFifty of the UK’s most celebrated actors from a diverse range of backgrounds recorded monologues, raising close to £35,000 to date for the benevolent fund which is being run by Equity, the union for performers and creative practitioners. 
“It was horrendous to get a phone call from my agent basically telling me I wasn’t going to work for the next nine months,” Michelle Collins said. “Like everybody else, I was trying to think of ways to keep busy to avoid getting too down about what was happening, and I very quickly I thought of doing some sort of fundraiser. 
“It all came together very quickly. I was so worried about younger actors, particularly those who aren’t financially supported by their families and don’t come from a privileged background. How were they going to support themselves in the industry? 
“So many people think actors are all wealthy, but it’s a total misconception. It’s a very precarious industry, and coronavirus has just made it so much tougher.
“We could get to a point where only a certain type of Actor is able to work. Without the right support all that diversity could be pushed out, and possibly become elitist. 
“I know lots of young actors who are having to leave London because they just can’t afford to live here, can’t afford to eat, and there’s no work. It’s a really, really worrying time.” 
While much of the discussion around the announcement has centred on theatres, it has also come as a relief to music venues across the UK who have been forced to clear their line-ups for months.
But like other creatives – both behind the scenes and centre stage – the financial future for freelance musicians and crew remains unclear. 
Musicians’ Union general secretary Horace Trubridge said: “We’re delighted that the government has answered one of our key lobbying asks by announcing a £1.57bn cultural fund. This is a welcome first step which hopefully ensures that all our great venues and theatres will not go under. Unfortunately, it is still unlikely that musicians who work in these venues will be able to go back to work imminently.
“Given the £5.2bn that the music industry is worth to the UK economy, not to mention the cultural contribution that musicians make, it is vital that our members are able to survive this closure period, which will be far lengthier than for most other workers. One in five of our members have told us that they may leave music for good if they do not receive further financial support.
“We are therefore urging the government to extend the SEISS and the furlough scheme for creative workers until at least the end of the year. Crucially, 38% of our members do not qualify for either of the government’s assistance schemes so we are also asking that excluded musicians are able to apply for some of the money that has been announced today.” Related... Suspected Case Of Bubonic Plague Found In China, But This Is Why You Shouldn't Freak Out Piers Morgan Says Kate Garraway's Husband Remains In 'Serious Condition' As He Clarifies Health Reports Anger As Social Distancing Rules Bar Grenfell Victims From Attending Inquiry
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