Giles Watling, the former actor and Conservative MP for Clacton, has pleaded with the Prime Minister to extend support to the thousands of freelancers in the performing arts under the extended lockdown.
In a question he posed at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on 23 September, Watling said, ‘There are those that have fallen through the cracks. They are the freelancers… We must do something to protect the freelancers.’
Boris Johnson responded, ‘We will do whatever we can to protect the freelancers because they are the backbone of the theatrical world.’ But he referred only to the £1.5bn given to theatres and venues, little of which will find its way to self-employed musicians and other performers and technicians. He gave no indication of any additional help for individuals.
It has been estimated that over three million self-employed people in Britain were not eligible for the government’s support schemes during lockdown. Musicians Union research showed that one third of self-employed musicians were exempt from the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). With the furlough scheme ending in October, tens of thousands more people in the performance arts sector face the total loss of their income.
The concern now is that the government’s new restrictions will halt plans to re-open venues, extending by months the period during which all performers will be without work.