The Stage – News – Freelancers: ‘Government continues to ignore us with pitiful funding figure’

A £500 million allocation of grants for cultural organisations from the government has been branded “pitiful” by a campaign group for freelancers, which warns many workers will leave the industry without targeted support.

Freelancers Make Theatre Work said workers “were standing on a precipice” and have now been “pushed over the edge” by the government’s latest announcement.

The £500 million round of funding, which will be distributed by Arts Council England, forms part of the government’s £1.57 billion support package.

It was announced on July 28, covering theatres, music and comedy venues, and museums, along with £30 million for independent cinemas and £92 million to protect heritage sites.

A further £258 million of grants will be reserved for a second round of funding and the support package will also include £270 million worth of repayable finance.

In this funding round theatres can apply for grants up to £3 million, with organisations allowed to use the money for expenditure including staff salaries or freelance employment, equipment to comply with social distancing and risk assessments.

The statement from Freelancers Make Theatre Work said: “The figure of £500 million to support theatres, music and comedy venues, and museums makes for stark reading this morning.

“The figure is pitiful and the realities of the situation for our world-class freelance theatre workforce are now all too clear.

“Organisations and institutions are expected to apply for funds to be supported to survive for the rest of the financial year, when the money will barely be enough to keep the majority of them alive.”

Freelancers Make Theatre Work argued that despite government acknowledgement of the impact of Covid-19 on the freelance workforce, government has “chosen to do nothing”.

The campaign group warned “huge numbers” of freelance workers will be forced to leave the industry or to look to the benefit system for support.

In a statement, it said: “There is nothing in this distribution of funds to directly support any of the creative individuals who make the shows that, we are told, are so well loved.

“We were standing on a precipice – we have just been pushed over the edge.”

It added: “[The press release announcing the funding] mentions how grateful various among the great and the good are for the cash but these words feel hollow, ridiculous even.

“We cannot be asked to be grateful for nothing. We are not grateful. We continue to be ignored.”

Freelancers Make Theatre Work has pledged to continue campaigning for more support.

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