Over 100 organisations have signed a joint letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the government to extend support for freelancers in the performing arts and entertainment industries.
The letter, which highlights the challenges facing freelancers who make up one third of the creative workforce, calls for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to be extended past October until spring 2021.
“Our members need to know that there will be support after October, not just for those who are eligible for the SEISS now but also those who fall through the gaps,” said Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary of the Musicians’ Union.
Responding to the second round of the SEISS funding earlier this month, Pohl said: “38% musician we surveyed do not qualify, many of our members’ workplaces will not reopen until next year, and live performances with significantly reduced audience capacity simply aren’t economically viable. ”
She continued: “We are calling for both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended into early 2021 for those workers who cannot make a living while social distancing guidelines remain in place.
“We have been making these arguments to the Government since March and are increasingly concerned for the welfare of our members. If we don’t get further help for them soon, we will see a mass talent exodus from music – and the arts in general.”
Last month, more than 1,500 artists and industry figures came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the launch of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign.
After months of campaigning from fans and the world of music, the UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection of £1.57 billion to help the arts, culture and heritage industries survive the impact of closures brought on by coronavirus – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.
While the relief for venues was welcome, many warned that without urgent government clarity, support and action, the pipeline of talent that plays within them could be cut short – declaring that musicians and crew were facing their “biggest crisis since the 1920s” without support.
Various industry bodies have predicted that musicians and performers won’t be able to return to work properly until at least the middle of 2021.
Meanwhile, Sam Fender performed the UK’s first socially distanced outdoor show earlier this month. The ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ artist the new Virgin Money Unity Arena at Newcastle Racecourse on August 11.