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Lockdown in England: The Likely Effect on Musicians

A nationwide lockdown has been announced for England, as well as extensions to the Government’s SEISS and furlough schemes which will apply across the UK.

Published: 02 November 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:31 PM
Photograph of a clarinet performer in what appears to be an orchestral setting, although we can only see the performers hands and a blur of other instruments and music stands in the background.
We expect the Government to provide more detail on the planned lockdown over the coming days, and Parliament will be voting on a final set of regulations on Wednesday. Photo credit: Shutterstock

England will be back in a national lockdown from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December. We understand that this could either be extended, or that the lockdown will be followed by a return to the tiered system.

We expect the Government to provide more detail on the planned lockdown over the coming days, and Parliament will be voting on a final set of regulations on Wednesday. You can read further details on what the nationwide lockdown will mean on the Government’s website.

We also expect further information from the Treasury tomorrow, and will update members if this is the case.

We are urgently speaking to DCMS and other sectors of Government to get clarity on some of the details, but below is a broad summary of how we expect the new lockdown to affect members. Please continue to check our website, Coronavirus update emails and Twitter channel for further updates.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently operating under different restrictions and advice can be found on our website. We also plan to send emails out to members in these nations later this week. The furlough and SEISS extensions will, however, apply across the UK.

The furlough scheme will be extended

The Treasury has extended the furlough scheme at 80% for November. We are pushing for details on how this may affect workers who have recently been let go as a result of the planned end of the furlough scheme.

SEISS payments will be increased

Support for the self-employed will be increased from 40% of trading profits to 80% for November. As SEISS is calculated over 3 months, the total grant will increase from 40% to 55% of trading profits for November to January and the maximum grant will increase to £5160.

This clearly does not achieve parity with employed people on furlough, and we will lobby the Treasury on that point as well as continuing to argue that the many musicians who have been ineligible for this scheme must now be included.

Recording studios can continue to operate

We have received confirmation that studios can continue to operate during the forthcoming period, so producers will continue to be able to engage session musicians to complete recording projects during this time. This is a great news for the sector and our members who work in it.

Orchestras will still be able to meet

There will be no performances in front of live audiences for the lockdown period, but orchestras will be able to rehearse and perform for recording, or broadcast and streaming under social distancing guidelines.

Schools will remain open

Schools and education settings in England will remain open under the new restrictions, so we expect face-to-face teaching in these settings to continue. Members should seek advice from the setting or their employer (e.g. music education hub) in the first instance and contact their regional MU office if needed.

We've now had confirmation that music teachers will not be able to teach in their own homes, see our latest guidance on face-to-face teaching.

Given the current uncertainty, members may wish to prepare themselves and their students to resume lessons online if this becomes necessary. See our website for guidance on teaching online.

Members who teach in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should continue to follow local guidance, but the MU hopes to be able to provide further detail on this by the end of the week.

Most live performance work will cease

Venues and hospitality are going to have to close, so most live work will cease. Lots of the business plans the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) supported included new activity or assumed certain levels of sales, which will now be inaccurate.

DCMS is rapidly reviewing the situation, and will be looking at how best to use the contingency funds it has left over to best support the sector over the course of the new lockdown and we are lobbying them on this point.

We are also working with UK Music to develop a six-month strategy to get our industry in the best possible position for when we come out of the second wave in 2021 and have a phase of reopenings.

Take action now

Join our urgent call to the Government to do more, in order to safeguard the future of the UK’s music culture and industry – ask your MP to make your voice heard in Parliament.

You can use our template letter if you’re not sure what to say. Remember to include how you are affected too – personal stories make all the difference.

Write to your MP now.

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