Our industry like many others relies upon the contribution and hard work of many freelancers to thrive. From actors onstage to the technical teams backstage, writers and directors, designers and illustrators, filmmakers, fundraisers, consultants, facilitators and so many more, quite simply arts and culture in the UK is built upon the work of those who are now some of the most vulnerable to the impact of the Coronavirus.
Here at Boundless we work with freelancers year round, our Finance Manager is a freelancer, so are the artists we commission and work with, support through Boundless Accelerator and our Advisory Group who this week updated us on the reality of having lost work in recent weeks. Whereas Chancellor Rishi Sunak has guaranteed 80% of your salary if you are employed and payed through PAYE, the situation for freelancers and those on zero hour contracts or in the gig economy is still unresolved.
These are of course extraordinary times and with the whole country on a crisis footing and new challenges being presented daily, I understand that answers are not simple. It is also of course vital that the health of the country is protected and that we all follow the guidelines that will see the spread of the Coronavirus slow before a vaccine can be successfully rolled out.
However, with so many freelancers worried about where the money is coming from and limited options to keep earning, we must all stand shoulder to shoulder and lobby for their fair treatment and protection. The anxiety caused by this uncertainty will have a huge impact on the mental health of all workers not currently protected by the government and in order for society to return to some sort of normal in the months to come it is vital that every member of society is supported now.
Arts Council England announce Covid-19 Support
Yesterday, Arts Council England showed real leadership and announced a huge £160 million in emergency funding for the arts and culture sector, including those most vulnerable freelancers through the creation of a £20 million hardship fund. It is exactly this sort of quick work from ACE that demonstrates the importance of culture in a time of crisis.
ACE have created this fund by draining all of their reserves and redirecting strategic funds for 2020/21 meaning that there is a limit to the support they can give beyond this. The government must now step in to secure the future for all freelancers, those on zero hour contracts and working in the gig economy. In the meantime if you are suffering hardship and need financial support, you can apply for up to £2,500 from Arts Council England, who will be announcing full details on how to apply soon. Follow @ace_national for updates and read more at www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19
Even if the future seems unclear, the world will return to a new normal in the months to come. Of course the impact of the Coronavirus will extend beyond anything we can imagine and our lives and finances are surely going to be affected for years to come. However, I believe that we will need culture, stories and artists in much the same way we always have, to make sense of the world, to give us reasons to come together and for entertainment when the world is challenging.
Theatre at its most relevant is vital and I hope that those who make up our industry are supported in the weeks to come to sustain their careers and guide us all through what is to come through the culture they make. If like me you want to show your support now, there are funds being established around the UK and the petition below aims to force the Chancellor to do more and quickly, you can sign that here:
The Boundless office in Bermondsey is closed and the team are working remotely from home.
We’re looking forward to launching our fiction podcast Radio Elusia later this spring and seeing you at a Boundless live show soon.