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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Government must act quickly before a storm of job losses in the arts becomes a tsunami

Government must act quickly before a storm of job losses in the arts becomes a tsunami

A jobs crisis in the arts did not have to be inevitable and yet my inbox is overflowing with concerns from the creative industries, writes Tracy Brabin MP | PA Images

4 min read

Unless the Government's arts package funding is released quickly, once support from the Job Retention Scheme ends, creative industries will have no choice but to make further job cuts.

The last couple of weeks have taken their toll on the arts and the creative industries.

From the Grand Theatre in Blackpool to Fairfield Halls in Croydon, from Sadler’s Wells in London to the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool and more, we’ve seen redundancy announcement after redundancy announcement.

What was a storm of job losses is now becoming a tsunami, as was previously warned by trade union BECTU and the Labour Party.

So many of us had hoped that further detail being announced on the Government’s £1.57bn arts package would provide the certainty needed to stem the tide of job losses. The reality sadly is much different.

Several weeks ago, I put out a call to the arts community to let me know of job losses and redundancies happening in the sector. The feedback was almost overwhelming.

Job losses in the arts and cultural industries are now over 7100 and affecting nearly 100 organisations. Every single job lost in the arts should be seen as a creative tragedy, of unfulfilled promise in the UK’s cultural potential and my heart goes out to every person affected.

And whilst this figure is troubling in itself, it doesn’t show the full picture of what may come.

Recent BECTU research also showed job losses jumped by 2,000 in just a month. What analysis by my office has shown is that these losses are affecting all regions, all sizes of organisation, and metropolitan areas and towns alike. It is seismic and I fear only just beginning.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has been completely right when she says that a one size fits all approach isn’t working, and that is certainly felt by many in the creative industries.

What the 7100 jobs lost so far doesn’t tell us is even more troubling.

It doesn’t tell of the tens of thousands of freelancers in the arts who are without work, many who have been completely excluded by Government support schemes and who have lived without a penny of income over the past four months.

We also know that over 20 major arts organisations have announced redundancies but haven't yet made public the number affected, so this 7100 figure could be much higher.  

Furthermore, many organisations tell me privately they will inevitably have to make job cuts soon – many are waiting until they no longer receive support from the Job Retention Scheme, and other organisations wait with trepidation to see if they will be a recipient of the Government’s arts sector recovery package in enough time to avoid making these cuts.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has been completely right when she says that a one size fits all approach isn’t working, and that is certainly felt by many in the creative industries.

The future of the UK’s multi-billion-pound creative industries is at stake.

A jobs crisis in the arts did not have to be inevitable and yet my inbox is overflowing with concerns from the creative industries.

I remain deeply concerned that the Government’s arts package funding will not be released in sufficient time to stem the tide of job losses.

Whilst Government tells arts organisations privately that they need to adapt to new times, I worry that adaptation becomes all the more difficult when our treasured arts institutions are left with no viable choice but to cut the very creative staff who are essential to that adaptation.

Finally, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, alarm bells are ringing when we see job losses in the very roles that are disproportionately held by underrepresented groups.

If “building back better” is to mean anything post Covid, it must be that the organisations that make up the cultural life of the country have better representation of marginalised groups, else the nation will be poorer as a result.

I'm continuing to track job losses and the impact of Covid on the cultural industries. If you have anything you’d like to raise please get in touch on tracy.brabin.mp@parliament.uk

 

Tracy Brabin is the Labour MP for Batley and Spen and shadow minister for digital, culture, media and sport. 

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