Open Letter in Support of the Arts
On October 6th, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested in an interview that careers in performing arts and the creative industries would not be viable in the future. In response, KCL Jazz Society has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor, to protest, highlight and raise awareness about the difficulties facing the music and events industry during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We asked him to acknowledge the importance of the creative industries to the health, wellbeing and economy of the UK.
We asked all students, especially those studying music and performance, to sign this letter in support of those who work, study and enjoy live performance.
The letter received 2000 signatures from students across the UK and from over 50 educational institutions. We’re still waiting for a response from the UK government, but we’ll never stop pushing for support for the arts.
We would also like to thank Musicians’ Movement (https://www.musiciansmovement.co.uk) for their support over the last few months in promoting the letter.
Dear Rishi Sunak,
On Tuesday 6th October 2020, over four hundred musicians performed outside the Houses of Parliament and outside Birmingham Symphony Hall to protest, highlight and raise awareness about the difficulties facing the music and events industry during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The musicians, all freelancers, performed 90 seconds of Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars’, before standing stock-still for 2 minutes. Ninety seconds is approximately 20% of the famous work by Holst, the maximum percentage of pay that the government is providing for freelancers. The 2 minutes silence pays respect to the 45% of musicians not covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
This event was organised by violinist Jessie Murphy, in collaboration with Let Music Live, and it was supported by the Musicians’ Union. It was an act of solidarity between musicians and those in the creative industries.
On the same day, you went on the record in an interview with ITV News, implying that musicians and performers will have to retrain, to find a new profession. When the interviewer suggested “that’s you saying [to musicians and performers], go and get a different job”, you responded saying “that’s a fresh and new opportunity for people, that’s exactly what we should be doing”.
It is clear that you think that the skills musicians and performers have are not ‘viable’. In this economy, these skills are not worth saving.
We are writing this letter as a body of students from a variety of educational institutions, calling for greater support for musicians, performers and all those that help make these events happen. The skills we are learning are important to making the UK a cultural capital of the world.
Christopher Small, in his ground-breaking book ‘Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening’, declares that music is a verb. He highlights that every person who participates in the production of the performance is ‘musicking’, from the performers, to the lighting technicians, to the ticket sellers, to the front of house team, to the cleaners, to the media and advertising team, to the teachers that trained the musicians and the team that transports the equipment, to the sellers of the instruments and to the manufacturers/repairers of the instruments. There are so many more roles involved in the creative industries, and thousands of jobs are on the line.
The creative industries contribute significantly to the UK economy. In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the UK, the Creative Industries were contributing £13million every hour to the UK economy (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-creative-industries-contributes-almost-13-million-to-the-uk-economy-every-hour?fbclid=IwAR3N6lR68h3OKTeU2Lf-oZmmRwavam8b1WNYDI77V5bL1OwQiQBIjIjqi0o).
We have all benefited significantly from the creative industries. We participate in it, we learn from it, we support it. We have trained for many years in our skill set, and those who have work in the creative industry have years of experience.
We, as students in music and the creative arts at UK universities and conservatoires, are asking for you to re-evaluate your position and to offer these performers the financial support they deserve.