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MU member Tom Plater represented the union at this year’s TUC Young Workers’ Conference. He moved two motions, highlighting the impact of Arts Council England funding cuts on opportunities for young workers, and protecting young workers from sexual harassment on public transport. Both motions passed with unanimous support. Read his full speech on the impact of arts funding cuts on young people below.

Ben Plater at the TUC's Young Workers' Conference 2023, standing on stage giving his arts funding speech.
MU member Tom Plater represented the union at this year’s TUC Young Workers’ Conference. Image credit: The MU ©

Conference, music is everywhere. When you turned on the TV this morning. When you go and do your shopping, there’s music. Your favourite film? Music. But music and the performing arts are under threat from a Government that devalues our profession and underestimates our contribution to society. Conference, we must not do the same.

This year, Arts Council England funding is being cut by £50m in London alone, not to mention the impact of cuts across the country. These ridiculous funding cuts threaten the livelihood of young workers across the UK.

Secure jobs in the UK creative industry are notoriously hard to come by without family connections. The majority of the jobs under threat are unionised jobs – losing these is not only an attack on young workers, but on the whole trade union movement.

The funding cuts to English National Opera put 600 jobs at risk. Touring opera provision around the country – taking live music to people who could not easily access it otherwise, has been cut. Theatres haven’t escaped the cuts either – Liverpool Collective Encounters theatre has lost 25% of its annual budget and Oldham Coliseum, a theatre with a history spanning over 100 years, which has survived two World Wars and two global pandemics, has shut its doors for the final time due to these savage cuts.

Creative professionals don’t pop up out of nowhere

At Oldham’s final event, it was the actor Christopher Eccleston who said “I wouldn't be an actor if it wasn't for places like the Oldham Coliseum…. And they're disappearing. So what happens to the next generation?"

What happens indeed? Because Government arts funding cuts have also put one of the most important aspects of the cultural economy on notice. Our community.

Creative professionals don’t just pop up out of nowhere. Every creative professional you speak to today - not just from our union but from BECTU, Equity and others too - will have a story of something that inspired them to do what they do. And without these opportunities, I can very safely say that a lot of us would not be in the creative industry.

Whether it’s the professional orchestras working with local music hubs across the country to inspire their students, our local theatre companies and music therapists who work with schools, prisons and hospitals who rely on this funding to pay their rent, eat and have a roof over their heads, or organisations like Welsh National Opera, who serve incredibly rural communities – if these opportunities for young people across the UK disappear, along with the unionised jobs that go with them, we will all be the worse off for it.

Arts funding cuts are bad for the whole economy

It's not just missing out on the next Ed Sheeran, Adele or Queen. What these funding cuts will do is actively damage multiple sectors of our economy. Some of the best musicians outside the profession I know are medics, scientists & engineers. Students that take music at the GCSE level receive higher grades in their other GCSE’s and in a recent study across schools in Hampshire, students who have been studying music outperformed their non-musical peers across every measure. As soon as we begin to cut performing arts, everybody suffers.

Everyone deserves access to culture

Conference, everyone deserves access to culture. There must be no if’s or buts about this and as an organisation we must lobby Government to reverse these cuts, and we must both express our solidarity and support our unions, which are working hard to protect unionised arts and culture jobs across the UK.

To finish, I’ll leave you with the words of TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak who said earlier this morning, “When one of us wins, we all win.” Conference, support this motion – because our fight, is your fight too.

If you’re interested in shaping our own MU policies, find out more about how to get involved with the MU Delegate Conference 2023.

Arts funding

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

Arts Council England has made major cuts in public funding to arts organisations. The UK's music sector needs more investment to keep it world leading and protect the working people at its heart.

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

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Published: 15 April 2024

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