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UPDATE: Rishi Sunak has now suggested that people in the arts industry, such as musicians, may need to ‘adapt’ to Covid-19 ** although the chancellor has insisted he’s been misinterpreted (see later post) and that his comments apply to all workers. **

The chancellor was speaking on ITV News this morning (as he heads towards a clean sweep of media outlets).

Asked about the impact on the creative sector, he argued that the pandemic means workers could need to ‘adapt and adjust’, and that the government is attempting to create new opportunities for them.

ITV explains:

Rishi Sunak, asked whether out-of-work creatives should find another job, said: “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis.

“That’s why we’ve put a lot of resource into trying to create new opportunities,” he added.

He told ITV News that the government was “trying to do everything we can to protect as many jobs as possible” but conceded unemployment was “likely to increase”.

Asked whether he was suggesting some of the UK’s “fabulous musicians and artists and actors” should get another job, the chancellor suggested that there is still work available in the creative industry but said “as in all walks of life everyone’s having to adapt”.

He added: “Can things happen in exactly the way they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality.”

[update, it’s now been reheadlined to “Covid: Rishi Sunak says people in ‘all walks of life’ are having to adapt for employment”]

During the interview (do click on the link and watch it), Sunak does point to the government’s £1.5bn “cultural recovery programme” for the arts sector announced three months ago, adding that self-employed arts workers have also been eligible for wage support this year.

He adds that the ‘Kickstart’ scheme will help younger people find new opportunities – and cites the move towards putting theatre performances and even music lessons online, as an example of adapting to Covid-19.

But even so… the idea that some arts workers’ skills may not be needed is getting a pasting online.

The SNP’s shadow chancellor, Alison Thewliss, says it’s a ‘deeply offensive’ suggestion, which ignores the economic contribution made by creative industries:

Alison Thewliss

This is deeply offensive to people have worked and trained their whole lives in the arts, and to everyone who appreciates their skills and the joy they bring.

Incidentally, UK Gov figures show the creative industries contributed over £111 billion to the UK economy in 2018.

October 6, 2020

Labour MP David Lammy, the shadow secretary of state for justice, urges Sunak to provide more help for the creative sector:

David Lammy

The UK will be so much poorer without the musicians, artists, comedians, actors and other creatives, who have made our country a cultural capital of the world.

The government should be standing up for them now, not throwing away what makes Britain great.

October 6, 2020

Crime writer Ian Rankin points out that the whole country will be poorer without a thriving arts sector:

Ian Rankin

Without the arts, our lives are impoverished. This is nuts.

October 6, 2020

Journalist Jane Merrick agrees that the government should be doing more to help the creative industries, rather than simply concluding that jobs have been lost for good:

Jane Merrick

Oh no. The thing is, there’s still huge popular demand for consumption of the arts/creative industries, those industries just need help to weather the pandemic. Better that there’s effort to find creative – pun intended – ways to bring audience and performers together, safely

October 6, 2020

My colleague Aditya Chakrabortty points out that America managed to support its arts industry during the Great Depression of the 1930s, rather than suggesting Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock retrained….

Aditya Chakrabortty

During the Great Depression, Roosevelt paid thousands of artists to paint and write for their country. Washington paid for Rothko, de Kooning, Pollock to keep going. Let Us Now Speak of Famous Men was sponsored by the US government.

This policy on the other hand is philistinism

October 6, 2020

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