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MU Appeals for Further Support For Freelancers in Letter to DCMS Secretary of State

The MU’s Deputy General Secretary, Naomi Pohl, has written to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, calling for Arts Council England to make funds available to freelancers.

Published: 23 December 2021 | 12:44 PM
Musician performing on a stage, they are singing into a microphone and a crowd is blurred in the background.
Many musicians will have been relying on the festive period and the new year to provide much-needed funds following the devastating effects of lockdown. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Although the Treasury recently announced £1bn in financial support for businesses in the hospitality and leisure industries – the lack of provision for freelance workers leaves the majority of MU members uncertain about their future.

MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl has written to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Nadine Dorries, outlining the MU’s concerns and the difference short term Arts Council England (ACE) funding could make, as well as calling for a meeting early in the new year.

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you on behalf of 32,000 Musicians' Union members, 90% of whom are freelance. Our members work in the live performance sector including theatre, orchestras, gigs, opera and ballet, as well as recording, broadcasting and music education.

The spread of the Omicron variant has decimated the live sector in particular, as I am sure you are aware. Shows in the West End are being suspended along with concerts, gigs and tours.

Whilst the Union welcomes the Treasury’s announcement of £1bn in financial support for businesses in the hospitality and leisure industries, a £30m top-up for the Culture Recovery Fund in England, and increased devolved funding for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the lack of provision for freelance workers leaves the majority of MU members as risk of immediate financial hardship. Unfortunately when events are pulled, our members are often given little notice and not paid.

Early results of the Union’s latest research reports that over 86% of musicians have had work cancelled due to the surge in cases related to the Omicron Covid-19 variant. 41% of musicians state that they expected to earn under 25% of their usual income during the next two months, and 75% expect to earn less than 50% of their regular income.

Many musicians will have been relying on the festive period and the new year to provide much-needed funds following the devastating effects of lockdown and the well-publicised gaps in the otherwise very welcome Self Employed Income Support Scheme. It is absolutely crucial to their survival that the Government recognises the economic abyss that our world-class players, performers, writers and teachers are facing. They need financial support and they need it urgently.

If the Treasury would enable Arts Council England to make some funds available to freelancers in the short term, that would be enormously welcome. The music industry will do what it can to supply hardship funds but these tend to be very small, for example the Musicians' Union is offering in the region of £275 for its members in January. A reinstatement of SEISS for the period in which the live sector is unable to operate at pre-Covid levels would also assist the majority of freelancers.

If you were able to represent our members and other freelancers in the creative industries to the Treasury at this crucial moment, we would be very grateful. We would also welcome a meeting with you early in the New Year.

With thanks and best wishes for the festive season.

Naomi Pohl

Deputy General Secretary

Musicians' Union

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