Is this the end of classical music in the UK as we know it?

Jessica Learmond-Criqui is worried about the future of live classical music.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui is worried about the future of live classical music. - Credit: Archant

“If music be the food of love, play on” - Act 1, Scene 1, Shakespeare’s famous comedy Twelfth Night.

But, the situation facing classical music musicians in Hampstead and elsewhere is no joke. Sporadic reports of singers, instrumentalists, technicians and the vast array of freelancers supporting productions in music halls, opera venues and the like hint at the underlying chasm of artists who have been abandoned by the government.

I do say and mean “abandoned”. The reality for three million (out of an approximate five million) self-employed people is that they are not covered by any of the government’s self-employed help schemes. The result of this exclusion is financial disappointment of previously unimaginable proportions which is now leading to the poverty and destitution of many musical artists, many of whom may already be on the verge of losing their homes.

According to the Musicians Union, most musicians have not had one single gig since March and they are all now staring into a void of no income for the foreseeable future. The website Classical Music states that “many live performances which had been due to go ahead, albeit with restricted audience numbers, will now not happen”.

During PMQs on September 22, the prime minister said that “we will continue to put our arms around the people of this country” and “we will continue to support people who face challenges because of coronavirus throughout United Kingdom”. He added: “We will continue to send that support throughout the whole of the UK, to put our arms around the whole of the workforce of the UK, and to protect jobs and livelihoods.”

But these were empty words. The government has no intention of helping this sector of people at all as shown in the PMQs on November 11 when the prime minister, challenged by Keir Starmer about this injustice, replied thanking them and the country for their sacrifices and reiterated “hands, face, space”... Really?

This is a shocking indictment of the callous and brutal position which the government has taken regarding these freelancers. Unless we can shift the government’s position, these freelancers will bear an unfair burden of the sacrifice during this period.

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That is not acceptable in our society and must change.