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Equity send open letter to UK chancellor asking for further financial assistance for the creative sector

The letter was sent following a call between the chancellor and Equity's general secretary Christine Payne

A theatre with a lone occupant

Equity, the trade union for creative practitioners, has sent an open letter to the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak concerning the future of artists and organisations.

Penned by general secretary Christine Payne, the letter follows a call Payne had with Sunak last week to discuss the creative sector.

The open letter called for additional financial assistance for the creative sector, particularly those areas "where audiences are an integral part of the experience" – for example theatre or comedy.

Furthermore, Payne predicted that "the majority of theatres, pubs, comedy clubs and other live entertainment venues across the country will not start to open their doors until early next year – if indeed they manage to survive until then."

Calls for freelancer support to extend into next year were also voiced, either in full or a tapered form. Payne also stated that a large portion of Equity members aren't currently eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme – and that these individuals are facing many many months without financial backing.

Aside from releasing the open letter, Payne has also stated that Equity itself will have to work on an exit plan to navigate the post-COVID reopening of theatres, confirming that the union "will be contacting members soon to get their input into how we bring this industry back from the brink."


You can read the letter in full below:

Dear Rishi,

Thank you for meeting with me and other trade union leaders on Wednesday.

The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in economic recovery. Equity's priority, since the crisis began, has been not just ensuring the economic security of our members, but also safeguarding the future of the whole of the UK's creative industries, which as you know is worth £111bn.

In the early weeks of shutdown we negotiated agreements throughout the industry to protect our members, but also to recognise the difficulties faced by their engagers. There is now an urgency to develop recovery plans to ensure workplaces and workspaces can reopen safely and with confidence that their work will be financially viable.

It is in this spirit that I repeat my call to you yesterday to provide additional financial assistance for the creative sector.

While it may be possible for some sections of the audiovisual industry to go back to work in the coming months, health and safety issues such as social distancing provide complex challenges to a sector where audiences are an integral part of the experience. We anticipate that the majority of theatres, pubs, comedy clubs and other live entertainment venues across the country will not start to open their doors until early next year - if indeed they manage to survive until then.

In this context the financial risk that is normally borne by self-employed creative workers is greatly multiplied. We therefore urgently need an extension of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme until the end of this year - either in full or in a tapered form.

We also know that a substantial proportion of our members fall through the gaps within the current SEISS – particularly younger workers, parents, carers, those who earn over £50k, those who operate through personal service or limited companies or those who incur large but legitimate business expenses. These groups are looking at a prolonged period without income and desperately need help which is why I also repeat my call to you to consider introducing an additional hardship grant scheme for creative self-employed workers who are not currently eligible for SEISS.

Throughout their history, the UK's creative industries have been incredibly resilient. The unique challenges of this crisis however, could force many large and small arts organisations and venues ​to close, and end the careers and limit the future work opportunities of thousands of Equity members.

It was incredibly sad to see Southampton Nuffield Theatre fall into administration yesterday and I fear they could be the first of many if we do not intervene now.

Christine Payne

General Secretary, Equity

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