‘Cultural catastrophe’ could see 51,000 West Mids creative sector jobs lost

The West Midlands creative sector could see 51,000 jobs lost due to what the Creative Industries Federation has warned is a “cultural catastrophe” because of the effects of Covid-19.

Newly commissioned research from Oxford Economics reveals that the UK’s creative industries are on “the brink of devastation”. The UK’s creative sector was previously growing at five times the rate of the wider economy, employing over 2 million people and contributing £111.7bn to the economy – more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.

Regionally, the Midlands is set to be hit hard. The West Midlands is projected to be the region hardest hit in terms of job losses, with 2 in 5 creative jobs in the region projected to be lost.

Fiona Allan, artistic director and Chief Executive, Birmingham Hippodrome, said: “For independent charities like Birmingham Hippodrome, COVID-19 has had a huge impact financially. Having no ongoing revenue funding from either ACE or our local authority, we derive all our income from ticket sales, food and beverage revenue and fundraising.

She continued: “At present, we have next to no income stream, and are unable to make any employer contribution to the Job Retention Scheme from August. We have taken the extremely difficult decision to put 50% of our permanent staff at risk of redundancy, and many more will be on a small retainer agreement from the end of October when there is no more furlough funding.

“It is financially unviable for us to reopen our theatres with social distancing measures in place, so we are closed for the foreseeable future until social distancing is behind us. The Hippodrome’s closure is also affecting our four resident dance organisations, who face restrictions to office and rehearsal spaces and increased costs of use.

“Moving forward , even on reopening we will no longer be in a position to apply any subsidised rates to regular partners including Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera and others- commercial imperatives will rule our decision making until such time we can be back in a secure financial position.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The creative industries in the West Midlands bring vital diversity and innovation to the region, and is a catalyst for so many of our other sectors, including manufacturing. The creative sector has also been a huge source of growth, and was one of the West Midlands’ success stories before the pandemic spread. In light of this report it is therefore really important we protect it, and look at how we can rebuild it in new and exciting ways.”

“This will of course involve support nationally, but we are also looking at what we can do locally. Through Create Central there is already a plan in place, and we will use new funding we’ve already secured to bring in international investment for areas such as film and e-sports, focus on skills and training for our young people, and work with our universities to find new, creative, solutions for our region.”

The new report, The Projected Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the UK Creative Industries, projects that the creative sector will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy in 2020, with a projected GVA shortfall of £29 billion. Many creative sub sectors are expected to lose more than half their revenue and over half of their workforce. Despite the Job Retention Scheme, the report projects that 119,000 permanent creative workers will be made redundant by the end of the year. The impact on employment is set to be felt twice as hard by creative freelancers with 287,000 freelance roles expected to be terminated by the end of 2020.

Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO, Creative Industries Federation, said: “With the economic impact of Covid-19 hitting hard, the role of our creative industries has never been more critical. As well as being a huge driver of economic growth in every part of the UK, our creative and cultural sectors bring communities together, they employ millions and are at the heart of our soft power. These are the industries of the future: highly innovative, resistant to automation and integral to our cultural identity. We’re about to need them more than ever.

“Our creative industries have been one of the UK’s biggest success stories but what today’s report makes clear is that, without additional government support, we are heading for a cultural catastrophe. If nothing is done, thousands of world-leading creative businesses are set to close their doors, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost and billions will be lost to our economy. The repercussions would have a devastating and irreversible effect on our country.

“We urgently need a Cultural Renewal Fund for those in the creative sector who will be hit hardest, including those industries who will be latest to return to work, those businesses unable to operate fully whilst maintaining social distancing and those creative professionals who continue to fall through the gaps of government support measures. We must also avoid a cliff-edge on vital measures such as the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme, which have been a financial lifeline for many parts of the creative industries and cannot be cut off overnight.

“It is time to both imagine and engineer our future. We will need our creative industries to do that. They are too important to ignore.”