Read Equity's open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak requesting additional financial assistance for the creative industry
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
Equity, the trade union representing creative practitioners, sent an open letter to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak regarding future sustainability for artists and organisations. The letter was written by the union's general secretary Christine Payne and calls for more assistance for the creative and entertainment industry, in which audiences and mass gatherings form an integral part of the whole experience.
Many businesses and artists are faced with existential financial hardship due to coronavirus measures and restrictions. Payne predicts that the majority of theatres, comedy clubs, pubs, classical music performance halls, and other entertainment venues will not be able to reopen their doors to the public until early 2021, that is, if they even stay afloat by then.
The general secretary also pointed out that a large portion of Equity members are not eligible for the SEISS (Self-Employed Income Support Scheme) and are faced with the dire threat of several months without financial backing. Furthermore, Payne has also mentioned that Equity will be working on an exit plan to navigate the post-coronavirus reopening of venues and has confirmed that the union "will be contacting members soon to get their input into how we bring this industry back from the brink."
Equity's open letter to Rishi Sunak in full
Thank you for meeting with me and other trade union leaders on Wednesday.
The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in economic recovery. Equity's priority, since the crisis began, has been not just ensuring the economic security of our members, but also safeguarding the future of the whole of the UK's creative industries, which as you know is worth £111bn.
In the early weeks of shutdown, we negotiated agreements throughout the industry to protect our members, but also to recognise the difficulties faced by their engagers. There is now an urgency to develop recovery plans to ensure workplaces and workspaces can reopen safely and with confidence that their work will be financially viable.
It is in this spirit that I repeat my call to you yesterday to provide additional financial assistance for the creative sector.
While it may be possible for some sections of the audiovisual industry to go back to work in the coming months, health and safety issues such as social distancing provide complex challenges to a sector where audiences are an integral part of the experience. We anticipate that the majority of theatres, pubs, comedy clubs and other live entertainment venues across the country will not start to open their doors until early next year - if indeed they manage to survive until then.
In this context, the financial risk that is normally borne by self-employed creative workers is greatly multiplied. We therefore urgently need an extension of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme until the end of this year - either in full or in a tapered form.
We also know that a substantial proportion of our members fall through the gaps within the current SEISS – particularly younger workers, parents, carers, those who earn over £50k, those who operate through personal service or limited companies or those who incur large but legitimate business expenses. These groups are looking at a prolonged period without income and desperately need help which is why I also repeat my call to you to consider introducing an additional hardship grant scheme for creative self-employed workers who are not currently eligible for SEISS.
Throughout their history, the UK's creative industries have been incredibly resilient. The unique challenges of this crisis, however, could force many large and small arts organisations and venues to close, and end the careers and limit the future work opportunities of thousands of Equity members.
It was incredibly sad to see Southampton Nuffield Theatre fall into administration yesterday and I fear they could be the first of many if we do not intervene now.
General Secretary, Equity
Find out how to help UK theatres here: "How can I support West End and UK theatres during the COVID-19 crisis?"