A herd of mime ladies marched to parliament this morning as part of a socially distant protest highlighting the plight of workers in the theater and arts industries.
At the Panto Parade, artists, creatives and freelancers came together to call on the government to provide meaningful help to the creative industries hardest hit by the pandemic.
The protest was organized by the Equity and Bectu unions, as well as ExcludedUK, a campaign group calling for support for those workers who are eligible for government funding.
Philippa Childs, the director of Bectu, told the Standard that the aim of the event was “to draw attention to the currently really difficult situation of the theaters and to the people who have been excluded from government support for a very long time”.
She said, “As things stand, the art restoration package that Oliver Dowden announced a few months ago has not yet arrived in theaters, but even if it does, it will be about building maintenance and so on. What worries us are the people who work in theaters, not least the freelancers, many of whom have been excluded from government support because they have fallen through the loopholes. “
She wanted the government to provide “targeted support that would help to ensure that theaters can also be opened on a socially distant basis, because this is currently simply not economically feasible”.
The call includes an expansion of the vacation program for theater and live events, an expansion of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), an adjustment of current programs to allow better access, government-sponsored insurance, and a similar subsidized theater ticket program Eating out to help.
The Minister of Culture previously announced a £ 1.57 billion support package for the arts, but nothing has yet been received.
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Childs said, “It’s a difficult moment for a lot of theaters. They won’t be able to put on their usual pantos this Christmas and they usually bring a huge injection of cash into the coffers that allows them to do the other things they want to do all year round. ”She fears that this could lead to “closing some theaters permanently” and putting even more jobs at risk.
Hackney Empire, Lyric Hammersmith Theater, Queen’s Theater Hornchurch and Theater Royal Stratford East all announced that they will not be producing their annual shows this year and will be postponing them until 2021. ATG, which produces pantos at the Richmond Theater and New Wimbledon Theater, has also canceled this year’s festive shows.
Equity Secretary-General Paul Fleming said: “Our members pay their taxes to get support in times of crisis. Over 40 percent have received no government support. Viewers pay their taxes to get theater and variety shows. Your money is being spent too slowly to close – not open – our sector indefinitely. The government’s approach is not a pantomime, but a tragedy. “
Speaking to the crowd, he said that people pay taxes to “see live performances, indulge in appropriate entertainment and be raised, educated and informed and protest, and the government is stopping”. He said that the current way of dealing with the situation requires the question: “Who do we think should be an artist as a society? All we are saying now is: people who can afford to do it. “
Childs added that despite the serious message, the “happy” mime ladies brought “a glimmer of hope” to the event: “I think people were really happy to be able to get together with limited social distance because there is a little bit of it Hope and a little joy. “