Chris McLoughlin – Banned from working.
Many of the UK’s independent event professionals are in a desperate situation.
A human tragedy is currently unfolding across the world in general, and the live entertainment industries in particular, where vast numbers of self-made entrepreneurs are currently being ignored by their governments. In the UK alone, some 3 million taxpayers are currently excluded from meaningful government support. Support they only require because they have been unable to work since March because of COVID-19 restrictions, when only select businesses were deemed essential and allowed to remain open – notwithstanding the fact that any self-employed professional would probably describe their business as essential to their survival.
A group of individuals therefore created ExcludedUK in May to help those who fell through the cracks of the government’s rescue schemes.
“COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown presented the most unforeseen challenges to many individuals and businesses across the UK. While government support packages have provided much needed support for many, there remain some 3 million taxpayers – 10% of the UK workforce, who find themselves excluded from meaningful support, leaving large cracks within these measures,” a statement on ExcludedUK’s website reads.
The reasons for falling through the cracks are plenty, the list of those excluded from funding includes “new starters, those in between jobs or due to start new jobs after March 19, those denied furlough, the newly self-employed and new businesses, those earning less than 50% of their income from self-employment, +£50k trading profits, those on maternity, parental or adoption leave, those on PAYE freelance short-term contracts, small limited company owner-directors and businesses ineligible for grants, and a whole range of personal circumstances affecting eligibility through no fault of their own.”
Livelihoods are at stake, businesses risk folding, many have folded, and many individuals have been on extremely low to no income since March.
Aron Padley, the founder of ExcludedUK, told Pollstar: “Here at ExcludedUK we are sitting on a ticking time bomb that has already shown glimpses of the devastation about to incur.
“Suicides are now a very real and regular occurrence and I’m afraid the neglect and denial of our government towards our community is nothing short of shambolic.
“We are talking about a group of people that are ordinarily self sufficient, hard working taxpayers that have never asked for a handout before but on the one time they ask for help Rishi has turned his back on them.”
Padley was referring to Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, as head of Her Majesty’s Treasury, is responsible for economic and financial matters.
Sunak has been rejecting calls from fellow politicians to support thousands of small businesses in England, who are facing collapse.
Sunak is expected to address further economic support in a spending review scheduled for Nov. 25, however, “a widening of job subsidies is not expected to be part of his plans,” according to a Guardian report.
Padley told Pollstar: “If this issue isn’t addressed immediately we will be facing a mental health crisis like this country has never seen before.”
The UK announced the end of a country-wide lockdown, which is going to be replaced by a tiered system for different alert levels, starting Dec. 2.
Even under Tier 1, public attendance at outdoor and indoor events remains severely limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or 4,000 people outdoors and 1,000 people indoors, respectively.
Tier 2 further limits capacities, Tier 3 bans the public from attending. The UK’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) laments the fact that the government’s mandates lack “substantiated scientific evidence that these measures will suppress transmission,” which is something the association has been lamenting for months now.
Tier 2, for instance, technically allows grassroots music venues to deliver live music events. However, the government announced that alcohol will only be able to be consumed if it is accompanied by “a substantial meal.”
As the Music Venue Trust has repeatedly detailed to the government, income within the grassroots sector derives 65% from wet sales and 35% from ticket sales.
“It is therefore not possible to deliver an economically viable event in this sector without the financial support provided by alcohol sales. In addition, 92% of grassroots music venues do not have the necessary facilities to provide substantial food,” a MVT statement reads.
According to NTIA CEO Michael Kill, the latest government restrictions again confirm the complete lack of consideration and understanding of the sector.
“This will have a catastrophic impact on thousands of businesses and jobs across the sector by the end of the year. For many business owners this is beyond ignorance. This is tantamount to systematically culling our industry with intent,” Kill said, adding, “The Government has simply got this wrong. It is an appalling misjudgment. Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside Government departments, to ensure that our businesses are ‘COVID Safe’, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base.”