skip to main content

Plans to Axe BBC Singers Threaten Future of Freelancers and Young Singers Across the UK

Mezzo Lorna Price explains what BBC proposals to axe BBC Singers means for hundreds of freelancers and in particular, young musicians starting their careers.

Published: 23 March 2023 | 11:21 AM Updated: 23 March 2023 | 6:35 PM
BBC logo on building in Hull.
BBC executives have to do more than shrug their shoulders at the devastating impact their proposals to axe the BBC Singers will have. Image credit: Shutterstock.

In a letter to the BBC, ad hoc member of the BBC Singers Lorna Price explained the specific challenges facing freelancers and young singers, and what the BBC Singers means to them.

“I am 25 and starting out in the world of professional singing. The BBC Singers was my only stable and regular work. I hope you can understand the concern of many of my fellow ad hoc colleagues, not to mention the sheer impact on the opportunities thousands of singers of us feel on our work,” she said.

“Straight out of uni, it was my only regular work, and I could name hundreds of singers for whom this is also true. Those on the ad hoc list were regularly engaged as freelancers at fair rates and via a fair process. There are hundreds on that list. Anyone could apply, and we were all heard and given a fair chance,” she added.

This is crucial. It is quality unionised jobs with decent pay that enable freelancers and in particular young singers to build their careers in the sector. Axing the UK’s only full-time professional choir will have a big impact on the future of choral and classical music in the UK.

Stable, regular work is necessary to truly improve equality, diversity and inclusion

Lorna’s letter to the BBC also highlighted the importance of fair audition processes and stable employment to improving equality, diversity and inclusion.

“The press release speaks of improving diversity and opportunity, yet the decision made has quite literally destroyed the only stable work opportunity of every freelance classical singer out there". 

Lorna goes on to explain, “The BBC Singers have not only been exemplary in their performance but in my audition experience, I have never known a fairer process. Their programming of marginalised groups is unparalleled, and the BBC Singers employ thousands of ad hoc singers and composers every year of all ages. There is not a more diverse institution out there in this world of classical music.”

Backed by the full-time BBC Singers

Lorna’s experiences are echoed by full-time members of the BBC Singers as well. In a video for the Musicians’ Union, alto Margaret talks about her experiences as a student in the 1980s and how ad hocking for the BBC Singers as a freelancer led to her eventually becoming a full-time member of the performing group.

 

The BBC Singers and ad hoc freelancers have the full support of the union

MU National Organiser for Orchestras Jo Laverty voiced the union’s full support for Lorna and the hundreds of freelancers and emerging singers who work with the iconic performing group:

“Lorna’s letter to the BBC has the union’s full support. She is right that the BBC’s short-sighted proposals, which were presented as a fait accompli, will affect hundreds of freelance jobs. This will have a disproportionate impact on young and diverse singers.

“Stable, regular work is crucial to help young singers build their careers, and is necessary if the BBC is serious about improving equality, diversity and inclusion in its programming and in the wider sector.

“In the union’s view, the replies she received from BBC executives were not good enough. This is too important a decision, and BBC executives have to do more than shrug their shoulders at the devastating impact their proposals to axe the BBC Singers will have on hundreds of freelancers careers and futures.”

Freelancers express solidarity with BBC Singers and orchestras

At its most recent meeting, the MU Executive Committee also received a motion of solidarity and support from its freelance orchestral members.

Take action now: support the BBC Singers

 

Show your support

Take action now to protect BBC Singers and orchestras from the proposed cuts:

Email your MP to support the union’s work for members

Sign this petition to show your support for saving BBC Singers

• Share these asks with family and friends on WhatsApp using this link

• Share the news on social media and ask your followers to email their MPs and sign the petition too.

Get support as a student musician through MU membership

Access expert music industry advice and services whether you are a music professional in full-time music education, an occasional gig player, a part-time recording artist or looking to kick-start your career as a musician.

Benefit from many member services

Join as a student 

or explore all our membership rates

Get support as a student musician through MU membership

Continue reading

Small blue toy car over a map of Europe.

Take Part in the MU’s New Survey on Touring in the EU Post Brexit

Your answers are key to helping us assess the impact leaving the EU has had on touring musicians, and if our specialist information and guidance has been useful or needs improving. Your feedback is also vital in shaping our work when liaising with government.

Published: 03 April 2024

Read more about Take Part in the MU’s New Survey on Touring in the EU Post Brexit