THE United Kingdom, a world leader in arts and entertainment. When people think of music they think The Beatles. When they think of theatre they think of Shakespeare. Acting, poetry, literature – Olivier, Keats, Austen.
Now imagine none of them had been able to do that job. Imagine Paul McCartney had fixed your roof rather than played live on one. Imagine William Shakespeare had delivered your Amazon package rather than Hamlet. Great art lost.
That is what our Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak is suggesting for the UK arts industry. When asked about the future of the UK’s musicians, artists and actors, Dishi Rishi suggested it was time for people to adapt. Quite right too, look at what he has done. He adapted by marrying into a family of billionaires, why can’t the rest of us just do the same.
Rishi is ignoring quite a lot though. Firstly, his own government’s website states that the arts and culture industry contributes £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy. For that kind of money the government could buy an effective Track and Trace system that worked. Or at least the latest version of Excel.
Secondly, the arts are what makes Britain. It is admired and revered around the world. Millions of tourists flock every year to the UK in their millions to sample our art. That will end if it doesn’t exist. Surprisingly nobody is visiting to admire our wonderful banking industry.
Thirdly he is ignoring the fact we are people with lives. Despite Matt Hancock’s claim of being a huge grime fan, something which made me cringe so hard my rectum joined my throat, artists are not popular with the Tory Party. We encourage thought and debate. We are people who use our incredible talent to bring joy to others. Perhaps this is why we are so disposable to this current crop of politicians. A group with a talent deficit bigger than a PPE shortage who bring joy only to their own families when they leave for work in the morning.
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We should not have to forget about the jobs we have worked tirelessly to achieve though. None of this was our decision. We have made sacrifices our entire lives for our careers. We have not been allowed to do our jobs for seven months and given the bare minimum of help along the way. These occupations were viable before the pandemic, they will be viable after it.
Finally he is forgetting these jobs we should retrain for simply do not exist. In the most optimistic scenario from the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility, four million people will be out of work. With those kind of numbers I have more chance of being named World’s Sexiest Man than getting a trial shift at my local coffee shop.
The much lauded new skills and training scheme doesn’t even start until next April. Besides, a lot of artists simply can’t do any other job. The Secretary for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey suggested we move toward care worker jobs. After Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown’s quotes in the past few weeks do you honestly want to see them taking care of your gran?
The arts are what got the public through lockdown. What would it have been like without box sets, books, albums, comedy? If the support isn’t given, all that might be gone, and the next Adele will simply just be the next in the Job Centre queue.
Mark Nelson is a stand-up comedian