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Freelancers essential for post-Covid recovery, report states

A new report has laid out the vital role of the freelance community

Arts professionals working backstage

A new report has highlighted the vital contribution made by the freelance community to the arts world.

The freelance community has had a particularly fraught time during the pandemic – a large portion have found they are ineligible for the government's Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and, as a result, received very little by way of direct state support while venues remain closed and opportunities are sparse.

The "Freelancers Make Theatre Work" report, conducted from August to December and featuring contributions from almost 100 producing companies (jncluding the National, the RSC and Sheffield Theatres) has shed an important light on the role freelancers play, and how organisations are keen to see them helped as the pandemic progresses as well as in the years ahead once restrictions subside.

Seventy-one per cent of the sector is classed as self-employed (compared with the national average of 16 per cent). Roughly a third of these individuals have not received support since the pandemic began – that's around 70,000 people according to our quick maths.

Almost 92 per cent of organisations surveyed said they were "extremely" or "very" concerned about the freelance workforce's imminent decline if this lack of support continues, while 80 per cent said that freelancers are essential to their long term recovery plans.

Another important point is the ongoing concern about the diversity of the freelance workforce. Those from underrepresented communities are found to be much more likely to leave the industry, with 80 per cent of organisations worried about the lack of development of a diverse workforce.

Leo Wan of Freelancers Make Theatre Work states: "Our report clearly shows the extent to which the performing arts industry relies upon freelance theatre workers, but those freelancers are not being supported through the pandemic. They cannot be furloughed. Many are ineligible for the self-employed income support scheme. The Cultural Recovery Fund is not reaching them. We are facing the prospect of long-term scarring to the performing arts sector."

Shakespeare's Globe said in a suitably blunt statement: "Shakespeare's Globe: "Freelancers are the life-blood of all that we are and aspire to be…without freelancers, there is no theatre."

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