Outcry after stately home Lamport Hall asks musicians to work for free food

12 April 2021, 09:41 | Updated: 22 April 2021, 16:35

Lamport Hall asked amateur musicians to play in exchange for free food
Lamport Hall asked amateur musicians to play in exchange for free food. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Following social media backlash, the manor house has apologised for its “insensitive” call for musicians to play in exchange for a free “picnic hamper”.

A stately home in England has apologised after calling for musicians to play for free at its summer garden party.

Lamport Hall, a Grade I historic house in Northamptonshire, put out a request on social media for “competent” musicians to “gain experience performing for a crowd”.

“Calling all musicians!” a Facebook post read. “Do you feel a little rusty after lockdown and would just like to get out there again with your instrument?”

The manor house encouraged applicants to “send an email with a link to a recording of yourself playing”, and said it would pay the musicians with a free picnic hamper.

An outcry followed on social media as people rallied against the stately home for perpetrating the cliché that musicians will work for free.

Lamport Hall later deleted its original posts and published a statement, apologising for “any offence caused”.

Read more: Stop exploiting musicians with ‘exposure’ culture, says Arts Council >

“Our aim was to give local amateur performers the opportunity to perform in a casual setting, where they otherwise would not have the opportunity,” the manor house said in its first statement. “It is regrettable that this has been interpreted as asking professional musicians to provide their expertise and skills for free – that certainly wasn’t the intention.”

Lamport Hall, which in April was promised a £20,800 grant through the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, was developed from a Tudor Manor and is celebrated for its magnificent classical frontage and collection of books, paintings and furniture.

Attendees at its Walled Garden Feast events, taking place from 17 to 31 May 2021, will be able to hire their own private igloo, bell tent or picnic blanket. Igloos are priced at £60, the same price as their four-course menu.

Musicians have called out the manor house for expecting musicians to pay for free, while seeming to pay other staff at the event. One user commented: “Were you also asking amateur caterers to get a bit of practice and exposure in a casual setting? Didn’t think so.”

Another user wrote: “Do you get amateur builders to repair the house for a laugh and a sandwich? Do you get amateur gardeners to cut the grass for you? We were promised as an industry that the Covid cultural recovery grants would filter down to the individuals and freelancers. What you are doing is still exploitation.”

At Lamport we pride ourselves on supporting the arts in all forms. We regularly hold concerts and performances including...

Posted by Lamport Hall on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

In the Facebook post, the manor house said it “prides [itself] on supporting the arts in all forms”.

“We regularly hold concerts and performances including a wide range of genres, for which performers and production staff are all paid. We remain entirely committed to the arts in all forms and have an exciting programme of performances working with a wide range of (paid) professional artists, sound and production specialists for the second half of 2021, when events can begin to take place again.”

According to the Musicians’ Union, musicians lose an average of £5,394 per year because of “free work”. Data on the website reveals that 71 percent of musicians have been asked to work for free, while 54 percent have been asked to work for “exposure”.

Following the backlash, the manor house temporarily deactivated its Twitter and Facebook pages after staff members were being targeted on social media by those upset by Lamport’s original posts. Executive director Mark Herrod defended the decision, telling the Northampton Chronicle: “I will not have strangers making personal comments that are not related to this manner.”

Lamport Hall has since published a full statement on its homepage, which includes an apology to the music community for a “misguided and insensitive” request, and a commitment going forward to only offer paid opportunities in line with current Musicians’ Union rates.