Government must support creatives through Covid recovery to protect diversity in the industry
Without decisive action there is widespread concern that Covid's negative impact on earnings will further affect diversity within the creative industry.
We have seen over the past year the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on the livelihoods of those within the creative sector, with the cultural endeavours of TV productions, films and music brought to a grinding halt.
Throughout this, as chair of the All Party Writers Group, I have seen in forensic detail the acute impact had on writers in the UK. We recently published a report on how we can best support authors through this crisis and into recovery.
The report follows on from the APPG’S 2018 inquiry into the already parlous state of authors’ earnings, which found – through a survey by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society – that a decline of 42% in real terms income had taken place from 2005 to 2018. This recent session focused on challenges authors had experienced since the start of the pandemic including cancelled commissions, loss of personal appearances during lockdown, the closure of high-street bookshops and gaps in government support, which failed many freelancers.
Establish a Creators Council as a clear line of communication between the government and the creative workforce to assist and inform policy-making
The report has put forward ten recommendations to the government, which we believe if implemented, will go a long way to ensuring writers can feel more secure and supported in carrying on creating works for the British public, and in contributing to the revived success of the UK’s cultural and creative industries.
A fundamental request we have is to establish a ‘Creators Council’ as a clear line of communication between the government and the creative workforce to assist and inform policy-making during the recovery process and beyond.
We have found through the vast number of freelancers who fell through the gaps of emergency funding and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), that it is not enough for the government to consult just industry bodies, as it is clear it has resulted in a lack of comprehension over how the creative workforce functions.
Writers are central to the creative economy in the UK, helping to produce the stage plays, television, film and books we all enjoy, despite being often overlooked. The recommendations made in the report will also help to address inequalities, exacerbated over the last year for writers.
We believe that without decisive action there is widespread concern that the impact on earnings will further affect diversity within the industry. Writers are typically freelancers and testimonies from witnesses, including children’s author Dawn Finch, discussed the impact, explaining that income sources on which many writers rely had simply been wiped out, leaving their future uncertain.
The report follows studies by the Royal Society of Literature and statistics from DCMS that suggest writing as a profession, and the creative industries more broadly, are disproportionately a career path for those who already have independent means.
The government has an opportunity now, during the recovery process, to support authors in a meaningful way that shows future generations from all backgrounds the creative sector is a viable career path which will remunerate them fairly for their vital work. I look forward to discussing and working with Ministers to deliver this.
Giles Watling is the Conservative MP for Clacton. Read the All Party Writers Group inquiry report here.