Chancellor Rishi Sunak appears to suggest struggling musicians should get a new job

6 October 2020, 18:04

Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggests struggling musicians should retrain and get a new job
Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggests struggling musicians should retrain and get a new job. Picture: Classic FM/Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The Chancellor has come under fire for appearing to suggest musicians should get another job.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has appeared to suggest, in an interview with ITV News, that struggling musicians and other arts workers should retrain and get a new job.

When asked whether arts workers should simply try and find another job in a different sector, Sunak said: “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis. That’s why we’ve put a lot of our extra resource into trying to create new opportunities for people.”

When pressed further about whether he was really telling creatives to simply “go and get a different job” in a different sector, Sunak responded by saying: “That is fresh and new opportunity for people. That’s exactly what we should be doing.”

He added that the journalist, Daniel Hewitt, was mistaken in saying there are no creative jobs available, and “as in all walks of life, everyone’s having to adapt”.

“I’m getting emails and seeing how theatre companies are adapting and putting on different types of performances. It is possible to do theatrical performances online as well and for people to engage with them that way and for new business models to emerge,” he said.

“Plenty of music lessons are still carrying on – certainly in my household, and elsewhere.”

Read more: Nearly half of UK musicians forced to quit industry amid coronavirus crisis >

Let Music Live protest on London's Parliament Square

The Chancellor added: “So can things happen in exactly the way they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality.”

He told ITV News the government is “trying to do everything we can to protect as many jobs as possible” but admitted unemployment is “likely to increase”.

In anticipation of the furlough scheme ending, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced his new Job Support Scheme, for which he said only people in “viable” jobs will be eligible.

Many workers feel left out and unsupported by the new scheme, including the music and creative sectors, many areas of which cannot operate due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A protest took place today (6 October) in London’s Parliament Square, where 400 professional freelance musicians, alongside British violinists Nicola Benedetti and Tasmin Little, performed Holst’s The Planets in a plea to save live music.

Musicians have been outraged by Sunak’s comments, including violinist Jennifer Pike who said: “Mr Sunak, Britain is a world leader in the Performing Arts and freelancers are the foundation. Lose them and we lose not only billions for the economy but also the power to heal as a nation after this pandemic and a vital part of our identity.”

You can read a range of other reactions from arts professionals below.

Read more: Musicians express fury as arts jobs not ‘viable’ in COVID-19 economy >

Shortly after a tweet about the filmed interview went viral, ITV deleted its post and tweeted out the article again, saying their article had been changed to reflect that the Chancellor’s comments were about employment generally.

Sunak shared ITV’s new tweet, saying: “An earlier ITV News tweet falsely suggested I thought people in arts should retrain and find other jobs. I’m grateful they have now deleted that tweet. I care deeply about the arts which is why our £1.57bn culture package is one of the most generous in the world.”

This week, it was announced the fund would be delayed by a week. The announcement about which venues will benefit from the fund will now not be made until 12 October.