Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of the #SaveLondonMusic campaign regarding enhanced support for the arts, music and creative sector. Our campaign was started in 2015, with the aim of protecting, preserving and enhancing the live music scene in London. Until the lockdown, we have been seeing a real resurgence of live music in London. London is the heart of the UK creative sector. The UK music sector contributes £5 billion to the economy, but the true contribution is far higher, extending the soft influence of the UK globally.
The live music sector, along with theatres, cinemas, museums and all manner of other creative projects have been hit hard by the lockdown. Having no income since the middle of May has meant that many venues are now in a critical position. Staff and freelance workers have bills to pay, which means many have had to take on other employment to make ends meet. Whilst the government have acknowledged this with assistance on rates, grants and loans, for many the situation has made a difficult financial position critical.
If the UK is to recover from the economic effects of Coronavirus, it is essential that our live music scene, theatres, museums and galleries are not only retained, but ready to bounce back without the burden of huge debt. Without them there will be little night time economy and scant reason for tourists to visit the UK. Every pound spent supporting the industry will be a sensible investment that will ensure the UK bounces back and retains its position of global leadership in arts and creative industries.
We are specifically asking for the following support.
1. Emergency grants to be made available for all venues who are threatened with closure. These should be based on the ongoing expenses that venues face, such as non furloughed staff, rent, rates (where applicable), utilities costs, insurance and additional costs associated with limited reopening (ie assistance with costs of sanitisers, etc). We would like to see bounceback loans covered by grants, so the industry is not weighed down with debt.
2. A government guarantee to make good the income lost from limited reopenings (ie the government buying seats to remain empty), and other innovative ways to help the industry, such as sponsorship of performances.
3. A review of parking restrictions etc around venues at show times. Specifically in London, the congestion charge extension will be very bad for musicians, concert goers and support staff. All such staff should be able to apply for an exemption.
4. Infrastructure grants for venues to improve accessibility. Whilst many venues may not be able to reopen, it is a great opportunity to do necessary improvement works. This will mean that when the economy is fully reopened, the UK will have an even more attractive offering.
Whilst we realise that these suggestions have a cost attached, the cost to the economy of losing our world beating entertainment sector is likely to be far greater in the long term. Arts and creative industries are one area we lead the world in. As such, they should be a top priority for your government as we try and put the UK back on its feet.
This letter was originally published on the Save London Music website