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Composer Jeff Wayne: Government's treatment of freelancers is 'absolutely shameful'

The composer's musical The War of the Worlds, is being streamed online from tomorrow night

Jeff Wayne
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Ahead of the YouTube premiere of his iconic musical The War of the Worlds from Friday (you can find out more about that here), artist Jeff Wayne has called out the government for their lack of direct help for freelance musicians.

Chatting to WhatsOnStage last week, Wayne commented upon the ongoing circumstances for freelance arts workers up and down the country. While funds for English institutions are being distributed, it is unknown what proportion of this will go to the freelance workforce that is, more often than not, the backbone of the entertainment industry.

Wayne notes that: "I've been pretty fortunate that I've been able to work throughout a truly brutal period, but I've also been involved in a couple of initiatives to gain the attention of the government. Even when they focus on theatres they don't often include touring shows and artists."

The writer of dozens of famous tunes, including the theme for Good Morning Britain, went on: "It's shocked me, the inaction of the government, to support thousands of skilled people. Maybe it's because I'm a musician, but it feels as though the government thinks of musicians as buskers – who should shut up just because they've had a few coins dropped in a hat.

"It's absolutely shameful, because the Musicians' Union, a week ago, released a small article about how 30,000 musicians, members of the MU, 30 per cent are on the cusp of leaving their careers. To be a musician, a good musician that can deserve making a career, takes years of training, patience and being freelance. You're not pursuing a career as a business does, but you do it because you love music."

A small sum has been given directly to arts freelancers from the £1.57bn package, but many unions are continuing to warn that the self-employed workforce is being left behind. Wayne concluded: "Actors, stagehands, the crew – everyone that helps make something come together – it feels as though they're just being dismissed. So yes, a truly brutal period considering what's going on."

Wayne has moved the upcoming stadium tour of The War of the Worlds to 2022, while an immersive production is planned for London.


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