23 percent of the UK arts sector is at risk of insolvency

The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released a report showing the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors have furloughed by far the largest numbers of staff of any industry.

The Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey found 51 percent of staff across the sector have relied on the government furlough scheme during the pandemic, not including the thousands of freelance workers who have also lost work.

As yet, few have been able to return to work despite three quarters of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses registered as trading.

Most worryingly, almost a quarter of arts and entertainment businesses say they are at severe to moderate risk of insolvency.

41 percent of businesses said their turnover had decreased by over a half during the lockdown and three quarters reported a notable loss of income. Of all other industries surveyed, only the food service and accommodation sector reported more than a 20 percent drop.

The ONS report says 47 percent of the arts, entertainment and recreation businesses said that their operating costs exceeded their turnover, well above any other industry.

The report has drawn a troubled response from music industry bodies, fearing that the government has failed to support the huge community of self-employed talent that the industry relies on.

‘The reality of socially distanced performances means that most venues simply cannot afford to reopen, leaving the vast majority of musicians without work and in desperate financial difficulty,’ said Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

‘That is why over 120 organisations from across the creative industry are calling on the government to create tailored financial support for our self-employed workforce until venues can properly reopen. If they do not support the lifeblood of the performing arts, then we are looking at the devastation of our sector and an exodus of highly skilled talent.’

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