The MU briefed MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall parliamentary debate on the effect of Covid-19 on the creative industries. Amongst others, Stephen Doughty and Kevin Brennan made excellent interventions on behalf of musicians and were extremely strong on the MU’s three main asks.
The first of these asks is that the Government works towards getting all musicians back to work safely as soon as possible. 70% are currently unable to do more than a quarter of their usual work – directly due to Government restrictions.
The second ask is that, in the meantime – since musicians can’t work because of Government rules, expand the SEISS to cover more than 20% of monthly profits and plug the gaps that mean that 38% of musicians are ineligible for the schemes.
And the third ask is that for England, the Government follows the lead of the devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, who have chosen to use some of the money allocated to them from the £1.57 billion cultural fund to support freelancers through a freelancer fund that individuals can apply to.
Arts Council England has been told by the Government that they are not allowed to pay out money to individuals and we would like to see this situation remedied asap. We are also aware that there has been huge demand for the fund in Wales and that there is not enough money to go round. We would like to assure members that we are talking to MPs and MSs about whether more money can be found for this fund.
Protest in Parliament Square
On the same day as the parliamentary debate, 400 musicians gathered on Parliament Square, London. Jessie Murphy and other members and musicians organised the protest under the umbrella of Let Music Live, with support from the MU – to shine a light on the need for targeted support for freelance musicians.
They performed a short extract from Holst’s Mars, before standing in silence for two minutes – representing the maximum 20% support that freelancers can receive from the Government through the newest version of the SEISS grant. The protest received wide-spread coverage across the media.
Our members’ jobs are viable jobs
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak also chose the same day to make some ill-advised comments about musicians retraining to do other, more viable jobs. He has since retracted these words but they understandably caused a great deal of anger.
Horace’s response was:
“The Chancellor’s comments this morning suggesting that musicians should retrain are very disappointing. We know that our members’ jobs are entirely viable jobs – the only reason they are currently unable to work is because of the Government’s Coronavirus restrictions.
“We have been working with the Government to try to ensure that all musicians are able to get back to work safely as soon as possible. But as things stand 70% are currently unable to do more than a quarter of their usual work. In the meantime, we desperately need the Chancellor to expand the SEISS to cover more than 20% of monthly profits and plug the gaps that mean that 38% of musicians are ineligible for the wage support schemes.
“We also urge the Treasury and the DCMS to allow Arts Council England to distribute some of the £1.57 billion dedicated to culture to individual freelancers – as the devolved administrations have done in Wales and Scotland.”
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.