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Equity warns freelancers will be 'left behind' by government's arts funding plans

The union has warned of the dire consequences because of a lack of funds

Ballet dancers

Artists' union Equity has criticised the way in which the government plans to directly support freelancers as part of the £1.57bn support scheme.

In the package details released by Arts Council England (ACE) yesterday, it was stated that £2 million had been set aside to help freelancers.

ACE said: "We'll be investing £2 million in other funds that have been set up to help freelance workers in the arts and culture community, such as technicians, stage managers, artists and performers. More information on this will follow soon."

Aside from this, freelancers were rarely mentioned in ACE's extensive guidance for how organisations can apply for the brand new Cultural Recovery Fund, something that has not gone unnoticed in the industry. Thus far this means that around 0.13 per cent of the overall funding package will go directly to the freelance workforce.

ACE's comments came as the government said it is unlikely to be able to give guidance on non-socially distanced shows until November 'at the earliest'.

Equity said today that the new time scale and the £2 million were "devastating news", with its "members left behind". It doubled down on an appeal for the government to consider further support for creative workers, who are facing a "significant cliff edge" when existing measures end later this year. It added that: "funding made available to institutions must be attached to clear organisation-specific commitments to eliminate gaps in representation and pay".

The organisation has encouraged members of the public to write to MPs to flag this issue – you can find out more about this in our guide.

In response to the November announcement, Jon Morgan of the Theatres Trust also said: "Theatres Trust is disappointed to learn that the government will not be setting a date for theatres to reopen without social distancing before November. We appreciate the difficulty and the need for caution, but this means the vast majority of theatres will have no choice but to cancel their pantomime or Christmas show that generates the income to sustain them through the rest of the year, as November will not be sufficient notice to prepare productions and sell tickets.

"This means that more theatres will need to be supported through the government's £1.57bn rescue package. We are pleased to see that Arts Council England's criteria for its £500m share of the £880m grants element is broad enough to include most theatres, but we are concerned that this will not be enough to save all theatres.

"We urge funding bodies to consider and prioritise the circumstances of theatres that rely on pantomime for a significant proportion of their turnover (as much as 40 per cent in some cases). If the funds do not reach enough of these theatres, particularly with the furlough scheme ending in October, we will see more theatres closing their doors permanently."

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