Open Letter to the Government from City of York Council, Make It York and Cultural Leaders

The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
100 Parliament St
Westminster
London
SW1A 2BQ

Dear Secretary of State,

We, the representatives of the City of York Council, Make It York, and the Cultural Leaders of the city, are deeply concerned about the risks faced during the COVID-19 pandemic by the cultural, creative and voluntary sectors, and in particular by the freelance and self-employed people working in these sectors. Together, we represent the collections, combined arts, dance, libraries, literature, museums, music, theatre and visual arts within the city of York.

We welcome the positive measures already announced by the government to support our sectors, including loan and cash grant options and the commitment to pay up to 80% of employees’ salaries, as well as business rate relief for theatres and music venues, and the tireless work by Arts Council England, and the many other organisations and individuals donating and giving their time.

However, more desperately needs to be done.

While the package of support for employers and employees is an extraordinary and most welcome intervention, a third of the UK’s creative workforce is self-employed, and the freelance artists, creative practitioners and other workers in our sectors will be seriously affected by loss of income due to the pandemic. The Creative Industries Federation survey last week showed that 60% of freelance respondents estimate their income will decrease by over 50% in 2020 due to this crisis.

The cultural, creative and voluntary sectors are the life-blood of our communities. They support our wellbeing, enrich our lives and have vast economic benefits. Nationally, the creative industries contributed £111.7bn to the UK economy in 2018, growing five times faster than the wider economy. There are at least 62 professional arts and heritage organisations operating in the city and over 140 creative enterprises. Together with York’s universities and colleges, they are dependent on developing creative participants and cultural consumers to sustain their businesses. As most of these organisations have moved their models towards a greater reliance on earned income, their margins are far narrower than ten years ago, and much more fragile during economic downturn. With a significant proportion operating as charities, they also cannot access government loan funding.

These organisations in turn are dependent upon the active participation in the cultural economy of freelance and self-employed workers. If these workers are not supported to survive the crisis they will not be able to return to activity afterwards and our organisations will not be able to resume the service they provide to our communities, and most importantly, to the vulnerable people who rely on the voluntary sector for support, especially in times of crisis.

Guarantees to protect the income of freelance and self-employed artists, creative practitioners and other workers are now urgently required, to enable them to access support equal to employees, to continue working in and supporting the cultural, creative and voluntary sectors within York and across the UK.

We call on you now for your support in this critical matter and we stand by to help however we can.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure & Communities, City of York Council
Sean Bullick, Managing Director, Make It York
Reyahn King, Chief Executive, York Museums Trust, Chair of the Cultural Leaders Group

On behalf of:

Andrew Morrison, Chief Executive Officer, York Civic Trust
Ben Porter, Co-Director, York Creatives
Charlie Croft, Assistant Director (Communities and Culture), York City Council
Cherie Federico, Director, Aesthetica Magazine
Chris Bailey, Clerk and UNESCO Focal Point, The Guild of Media Arts
Chris Edwards, Chair, REACH (York Cultural Education Partnership)
Chris Sherrington, on behalf of York Music Venues Network
David Jennings, Chief Executive Officer, York Archaeological Trust
Delma Tomlin, Director, National Centre for Early Music
Drew Wintie-Hawkins, Artistic Director, York Dance Space
Esther Richardson, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive, Pilot Theatre
Fiona Williams, Chief Executive, York Explore
Hannah Wintie-Hawkins, Artistic Director, York Dance Space
Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing, Make It York
Joan Concannon, Director of External Relations, University of York
Kathryn Blacker, Chapter Steward, York Minster
Lydia Cottrell, Co-Director, SLAP
Mandy Smith, Executive Producer and Joint Chief Executive, Pilot Theatre
Marc Fleetham, Director of Business Development and Knowledge Exchange, York St John University
Rachel Crocombe-Lane, Theatre Director, Grand Opera House, Ambassador Theatre Group
Rebecca Carr, Co-Director, York Creatives
Rose Kent, Creative Director, Accessible Arts & Media
Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions, York Archaeological Trust
Sophie Unwin, Co-Director, SLAP
Tom Higham, Creative Director, York Mediale
Darren Moore, General Manager, York Barbican
Tom Bird, Executive Director, York Theatre Royal
Ian Murphy, Director, HIDden Theatre
Nathan Bargate, Director, HIDden Theatre. 

Please contact Make It York’s Head of Culture & Wellbeing helen.apsey@makeityork.com if would you like to add your signature to this letter.