It's my birthday this month. I'm officially joining the late 20's club and there's no hiding the laughter lines (not that I'd want to!). Birthdays are a weird time where you start reflecting on how your reality has met your expectation. This years reflection was always going to be tough, grieving the loss of both parents in the middle of a pandemic is never fun so why not combine it with working in an industry that's not only struggling (as most industries are) but an industry that seems to be little more than the Government's after thought.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that the Hallé had just been given a £740,000 grant and London Symphony Orchestra £846,000 along with over 1,300 theatres, museums and arts organisations but what about the freelancers that make up 72% of the music sector?
And just when you think it couldn't get any worse. Drop PR nightmare extraordinaire...
So okay, this was one in a collection of people in different industries who could go into a career with CyberFirst and yes, some people are calling the outrage on Monday 10th based on fake news. But it was a real ad campaign that ran until March 2020 and more importantly it's highlighted how artists are continually feeling! That our career is seen as nothing more than a glorified hobby that doesn't warrant the respect given to other industries.
Fake news and PR disasters aside. For this piece to be taken in any way seriously, we need to talk facts. So, according to Arts Council England in 2019;
The arts and culture industry contributed £10.8 billion to the UK economy.
The sector contributed £2.8 billion a year to the Treasury in taxation.
We have 363,700 employed in our industry.
Now let's be really clever and show the facts about the effect Covid-19 has had on our industry:
In August we had 46% of creatives still furloughed.
47% musicians have been forced to look for work outside them music industry.
36% musicians do not have any work at all.
This week, my news feed has been overrun with results from the ever ridiculous National Careers Survey. My results were quite tame; "paralegal or barristers clerk", other friends less so. Plastic surgeon and embalmer to name just a few. I don't know about my fellow creatives but I personally spent eight years studying and have over £41,000 in student debt to become a cellist and pursue a career in the arts. To become a paralegal I would need to find over £1000 to retrain when honestly, I'd rather be putting that money towards relocating to a country supporting the arts. We've worked too hard and spent too much money, blood, sweat and tears to just throw it all away.
Recently, I've become really passionate about my teaching, (calm down Rishi Sunak, it's part of a varied freelance career, not a "fresh and new opportunity"). I have some incredible students, all massively engaged with the cello. Last week, they asked if I was a "famous celloist", I replied sadly not but it's my job and I get to perform to lots of people. Their faces were full of wonder and they all decided (at least for that week) that's what they want to do when they grow up. And why shouldn't they? It is a magical career. That's why we all do it. It's the electricity of opening night, the final flourish of your concerto, it's being able to put a little bit of beauty into a world that so desperately needs it. What a sad reality it would be if these children did want to pursue a career in the arts only to realise it's a mere shadow of its former glory days. And if we're talking money, think how much the economy would miss that contribution.
So in short, we will not rethink, reskill, reboot. We will continue to fight for our jobs, to play on Parliament Square, to hit you with facts that validate our obvious use. Until. One day, it will fall silent. We will pick up our instruments, our paintbrushes and our pointe shoes, and we will leave. Creatives are born entrepreneurs. The Arts a global industry. We always find a way to make our art work. You can either support us or lose us. The choice is yours.