The Creative Industries Federation is offering help, advice, and free membership for creative freelancers in need – Harris Reed, Richard Malone, Charles Jeffrey, and Wilson Oryema speak on the need for togetherness and action
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, social distancing measures have forced the closure of cultural institutions and cancellations of events globally. While not getting sick or infecting loved ones is a primary worry for many, the pressures of a society built on capitalism is a serious concern when the entire economy (except pharmacies and supermarkets) has grinded to a halt.
Despite UK chancellor Rishi Sunak delivering three successive budgets to help bailout businesses and workers during the pandemic, there’s been little recognition of the plight of nearly five million self-employed people and freelancers in Britain, many of whom make up the country’s creative industries. A deferral of VAT payments has been announced until the end of June, while self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 have been postponed for another six months. Still, this will only put more pressure on people during key earning months, while failing to deliver immediate financial aid necessary for freelancers to keep their businesses afloat and cover basic living costs like rent, bills, and food.
In a bid to support the thousands of artists, designers, and writers whose work and projects have been delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) is writing to Boris Johnson to advocate for a temporary income protection fund for freelancers, who are currently at risk. You can read the letter in full here.
The group is working to get the major concerns and challenges faced by creative freelancers to the government. Other promises include calling on the government for fast and comprehensive support to all self-employed workers and freelancers, and ensuring measures (such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) are introduced and can be fully used by creative businesses and organisations. They’re also working with members to develop solutions, share insights, and signpost support, using the insight of CIF members to shape practical solutions and feeding them back to government officials, and seeking additional support for venues, theatres, galleries, and creative organisations reliant on footfall, audiences, or participation, given social distancing measures.
To help galvanise a united front during this uncertain time, the CIF is also offering a free six month membership for those who want their voices heard in government during this time. Members will also receive relevant news and updates throughout the ongoing pandemic, and a network of the most inspiring creative talent in the UK, access to a UK-wide programme of events and workshops in the future, access to the CIF directory and members-only jobs boards, industry insights, and funding opportunities.
Data collected by the CIF suggests that 42 per cent of creative organisations estimate that their income has decreased by 100 per cent since the outbreak. One in seven creative organisations believe they can last less than four weeks on existing reserves, while 45 per cent of creative organisations do not understand the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
“The crux of it is that creative businesses need money now, and they can’t wait another month,” Caroline Norbury, the CEO of the CIF, says in a statement. “Through no fault of their own, many creative industries businesses are on the brink of collapse – with all the economic knock-on effects and hardship that entails. And more will follow. Government must act rapidly to get grants to where they are needed most.
The creative industries are one of the UK’s biggest success stories – previously growing at five times the rate of the wider economy. The creative sector will be critical to driving the UK’s economic recovery – and transforming lives for the better in every community – as we re-build. It is essential to ensure that the UK doesn’t become a cultural wasteland post COVID-19.”
Below, we hear from the next generation of leading London talents on the importance of supporting creatives amid this crisis.
London-born Harris Reed is a non-binary model and fashion designer who has worked with the likes of Harry Styles, Solange, Alessandro Michele, and Ezra Miller. They’ve appeared as the face of Gucci and have been featured in Vogue, GQ, Dazed, Another Man, and more.
Harris Reed: For me, the creative community is like family, a network of individuals who can lean on each other for support and in times like today, come together. Artists, designers, writers, and more are among those at the heart of the world’s creativity and it’s important to keep that heart beating! To do so, we need the government to aid us by supporting with appropriate funding – so I’m thankful to see new updates in their measures of support for our community, and I am proud to be a signatory in this open letter.
Irish-born fashion designer Richard Malone graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014 before setting up his eponymous label. Winner of this year’s prestigious Woolmark Prize and an alumni of emerging designer support scheme Fashion East, Malone is an advocate for sustainable fashion, running a made-to-order business that uses ethically-sourced materials.
Richard Malone: These funds are critical. Creatives often find themselves in precarious financial situations that can leave you feeling like your output has no value or worth. It’s an important reminder that creative work is uplifting and encouraging in so many levels, and adds so much to people’s everyday lives.
We need to keep creating, to keep making sense of the world as it rapidly changes around us. We need to place value in our work which is vital in articulating these seismic changes, and we must push for creative solutions. Creativity is often the birthplace of practical solutions and we must support each other however we can. It’s also an important reminder in terms of emotional support, to remind each other that we love and appreciate the work and minds of others, to encourage those with little opportunities to keep making and thinking and reacting – everyone’s voice is valuable.
Scottish-born Charles Jeffrey is the radical mind behind genderfluid, punk revival Brit-kid label Loverboy. Previous winner of the British Emerging Talent prize at the 2017 Fashion Awards, the fashion designer has been compared to the late Alexander McQueen, and has become a mouthpiece for young, creative Londoners.
Charles Jeffrey: When I was asked to help the cause by becoming a signatory, I jumped at the chance. I was personally worried about all of my freelance friends and colleagues that I work with and how they will be protected during this harsh time.
It’s important to support creativity during this time, as culture never stops, even during a crisis. As soon as we are seen to not be supporting culture, we are not supporting human nature as a whole.
Wilson Oreyema is a multidisciplinary artist and writer who lives in London. His work primarily focuses on themes of human consumption and how it impacts human behaviour, which he explores through text, image, films, and exhibitions. He’s the author of WAIT, a book of poetry, and director of 2020 documentary How Toxic Are My Clothes, which explores the chemical effect of clothing on the body.
Wilson Oryema: Culture and creativity are one of the key pillars to any modern society. However, it is seemingly hidden in plain sight. When it is supported and thriving, it almost feels like it doesn’t exist, while making our lives collectively feel several times better. But, when this pillar is left unsupported, and is badly kept, it will soon be recognisable. It might even feel like someone’s dimmed the light in the sky, and this will lead to structural collapse. That’s why it’s a no brainer for me to be a signatory for the Temporary Income Protection Fund open letter. Because if we don’t support the creative industries, we’re basically turning our backs on every writer, artist, designer, developer, or other creative who’s ever lived.