On Tuesday afternoon thousands of events industry workers marched through Manchester in silent protest to ask the government to continue support for their struggling industry beyond October.
Masked protestors walked from Manchester Academy through to St. Peters Square – passing iconic and currently shuttered venues on their way.
Starting at midday on Tuesday 11th August, the protest’s aim was to put pressure on the Chancellor to reconsider an extension to the furlough scheme, more grants – not loans, and an extension of the self-employment scheme.
Event workers from all areas of industry were in attendance: from sound engineers to
security, truck drivers to tour managers, cleaners to crew, box office to finance staff, and many, many others.
The socially distanced protest hoped to draw attention to the numbers of people and their livelihoods affected by the government closure of the events industry.
Manchester’s Warehouse project founder and night tsar Sacha Lord was in attendance, pushing a flight case in solidarity alongside thousands of fellow events industry workers.
Speaking on the protest, he said: “Freelancers and the self-employed are the forgotten workforce during Covid. Where other businesses have had access to government support, those who work for themselves have been left behind.
“I personally know of many DJs, photographers, sound engineers and artists who were at the top of their industries pre-Covid and who have now been forced to give up their passions and who are now working in retail or construction just to make ends meet.
“I have been particularly concerned not only about the financial strain these individuals have been under, but also the mental health toll the pandemic has taken.”
With events and festivals the first to close and last to return, probably not until Spring 2021, it’s feared that as many as 50% of the UK’s event, touring and festival companies will not survive the year without additional government help.
Calls for a tailored amendment to the furlough scheme have thus far fallen on deaf ears, but it is hoped that through raising awareness and shining a light on the imminent collapse of the UK touring industry the chancellor will have a change of heart.
The Manchester music community has also pledged its support, with New Order, Doves, Mani and Blossoms helping raise awareness for the initiative.
Blossoms said: “Our industry is in need of urgent action. Due to the Covid-19 crisis the whole music and live events sector has been devastated. So many skilled people are at risk of being lost to the whole industry if government support doesn’t come soon. Millions of talented people, including many people close to us, need help now.”
With no work, companies are laying off staff. Self-employed people are leaving the industry to attempt to find alternative work. Parts of the industry will not survive through to next spring or summer.
Julie Cotton, production co-ordinator for artists such as Massive Attack, Nile Rodgers and Chic, and Elbow commented: “We are currently facing the potential decimation of the UK live music and events industry; the UK’s culture and entertainment sector is the envy of the world.
“We need continued government support in order for us to survive. The industry by nature is unseen. Thousands of people WERE working every day to give the general public cultural experiences and moments they will never forget. This is no more.”