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Freelancers and the cultural recovery out of Covid-19 in the West Midlands

A report by the TUC Midlands Cultural & Leisure Industries Committee, comprised of Equity, Musicians’ Union and BECTU (A Sector Of Prospect)
Report type
Policy proposal
Issue date
Key findings

Local authority cuts and a standstill in Arts Council England funding has undermined the resilience of the cultural sector to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main policy response for the cultural sector during the pandemic through the ‘Cultural Recovery Fund’ (CRF)  has been inadequate. However, the majority of CRF money has been used to ensure basic organisational survival, meaning redundancies have been plentiful and workers have slipped through the net. Many workers have also simply failed to qualify for Self Employed Income Support (SEISS).

The underspend in the CRF should be utilised to establish a Creatives Support Scheme for affected workers.

Regionally we can’t be allowed to fall further behind London, Manchester and Cardiff – all of which have had significantly more capital cultural investment than the West Midlands.

The 2017 TUC Cultural Manifesto six principles are a helpful indication of what we need going forward:

1.    A Midlands film and television studio facility.

2.   Trade union recognition and implementation of negotiated agreements as a condition of public funding.

3.  An integrated local government policy framework to support live venues, festivals and street performers (including infrastructure, public transport, regulatory framework etc).

4.   An increase in public spending on the arts in the Midlands until per capita regional arts spending is on a par with London.

5.    Secure, properly paid, professional employment for cultural workers and arts educators.

6.     Local control of all arts spending in the region (including ACE).

A ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Coventry City Of Culture Trust reflects principles 2 and 5. Similar discussions are ongoing with the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It can be done to grow the sector in the medium to longer term.

Six Key Demands:

We call on all stakeholders to commit to the following principles of a West Midlands cultural recovery:

  • Regional Fund drawn from CRF for the freelance workforce of £42million
  • Renew demands to progress a Midlands TV and Film Studio
  • Provide incentives to arts organisations to get people back into venues
  • Convene a genuine roundtable of all stakeholders to plan the recovery looking at a phasing timetable
  • TUC CLIC six principles of policy governance to feed into the recovery
  • An increase in the DCMS budget from 0.3% to 0.5% of GDP followed by extensive reform and democratisation of decision making in our sector
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