Musicians still ‘falling through the gaps’ as £400m announced for struggling arts sector

3 March 2021, 13:27 | Updated: 3 March 2021, 13:31

£400m for struggling arts sector announced in Rishi Sunak’s 2021 budget
£400m for struggling arts sector announced in Rishi Sunak’s 2021 budget. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

UK theatres, concert halls and museums will receive a further cash injection, to help them reopen once coronavirus restrictions ease – but union says musicians are still “falling through the gaps”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced an extra £408 million fund for the hard-hit arts and culture sector, in his 2021 Budget.

Theatres, galleries and museums in England will benefit from an additional injection to the Cultural Recovery Fund, to help them reopen once the COVID-19 roadmap allows.

It comes as part of a £700m support package for the arts, culture and sporting industries.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said on Twitter: “It’s a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival, but planning and preparing for [the] reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs.”

Sunak also announced a “new approach to apprenticeships in creative industries”.

However, there is still concern this money will not reach those in need in the sector.

Read more: ‘Every musician I know is now facing bankruptcy’ – impact of Covid cancellations on freelance artists >

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Throughout concert hall and theatre closures, freelancers have been among the hardest hit, with many saying they have fallen through the gaps in government support.

The Musicians Union, which represents 32,000 UK performers, launched a campaign urging the Chancellor to “invest in musicians”, after finding that 38 percent of its members still do not qualify for the job retention or self employment support (SEISS) schemes.

In his announcement today, Sunak said access to the SEISS has been improved, and over 600,000 people can now claim a fourth and fifth grant, up to September.

Minutes later, the MU tweeted: “We welcome the extension of SEISS to include self-employed people with 2019-20 tax returns. But that only covers approx. 15 percent of musicians falling through the gaps. Rishi Sunak needs to invest in musicians and extend SEISS so that it covers all those who are excluded.”

Chief Executive Deborah Annetts of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which supports over 10,000 music professionals, said the budget “hits the rights note for many musicians”.

Annetts added that the new funds were “essential, because thousands of our members have not had any work for a year and are waiting for venues to safely re-open.”