The UK arts industry has been one of the most severely affected sectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Theatres, arts venues, music of all kinds and film studios, which once thrived and were at the heart of our nation, are now in a devastating plight and fighting for their survival. Despite the £1.57 billion support package which was specifically allocated to the sector in July, 23% of businesses are still at a severe risk of insolvency, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics.
In a bid to overcome these catastrophic difficulties, actor Vanessa Redgrave has appealed for businesses and entrepreneurs to help financially rescue the cornerstone of Britain’s creative industries. The actress was accompanied by a string of famous faces outside of the National Theatre in London, including Sir Lenny Henry, Maxine Peake and Sir Trevor Nunn, who also offered their support to save arts jobs.
The event fittingly commenced with musicians sounding their trumpets, one of whom, Owain Harries, was due to begin rehearsals in a brand-new production of Hello Dolly in the West End before the pandemic took hold. Unfortunately, just like many other creatives during this unprecedented time, Harries has consequently been forced to pursue employment as a key worker in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Sir Lenny Henry elaborated upon these concerning issues in his speech, stating that freelancers such as “directors, composers and actors” amongst others, “are leaving the industry in droves as they can’t afford to stay. “
“The worry is, once we do come back to work, there won’t be any freelancers left.”
Redgrave further emphasised the crucial importance of having to “save the arts for everybody” and in her plea to raise funds, read out messages of support from a variety of leading figures across the entertainment industry, including the actor Liam Neeson. His message dramatically explained how “A true society cannot be whole nor fundamentally exist without the arts and the people employed in the arts. Culture is society’s compass, our North Star. If we lose our compass, we all lose our way. This appeal requires urgent attention. The character of our very existence as a nation is at stake.”
In order to keep breathing life into these dramatic truths and consistently renew the appeal, Redgrave intends to establish regular meetings to be held at Laurence Oliver’s statue once a month. Whether or not these petitions enable the arts to be steered back on course remains to be seen. However, Redgrave is certainly to be commended for using her high profile to garner attention and shed light on such increasingly pressing economic issues within her sector. In these unprecedented and dark times which are upturning our arts industry we can act in no other way but in accordance to how we have responded in all other areas of the pandemic; pledge our support and remain in hope that one day the arts will flourish once more.
Featured image: Knelstrom via Wikimedia Commons
Last modified: 22nd September 2020