Hundreds of musicians demonstrate in front of Parliament


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Simultaneous protests took place in London and Birmingham

An ensemble of 400 independent musicians performed outside Parliament to highlight the plight of the music industry during the current pandemic.

Violinists Nicola Benedetti and Tasmin Little were among the performers who performed a short segment of Mars, from Holst’s The Planets, in central London.

They then remained silent for two minutes to pressure the government to give more support to independent artists.

A simultaneous demonstration took place in front of the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

The events were organized by the Musicians’ Union, which represents over 32,000 artists in the UK.

He claims 70% of its members lost more than three-quarters of their regular work during the lockdown, leaving a lot of financial hardship.

Independent musicians, who represent 72% of the sector, are particularly affected. Almost half of them are not eligible for subsidies under the current self-employed income support scheme, according to the union.

Standing in Parliament Square, the protesters played for just 90 seconds – about 20% of Holst’s March – to represent the maximum 20% support eligible freelancers can claim from the government.

Benedetti, who filmed the performance for his Twitter feed, called the moment “terrifyingly moving.”

Keith Ames of the Musicians’ Union added that concerts seem rare “over Christmas and probably until March”.

“It would mean a full year without work,” he added.

“Many musicians are facing a retraining, many are talking about leaving the country,” Benedetti told the BBC. “It’s not just manufacturing, it’s a real situation that we don’t want to happen.

“It’s not just about saying we want documents, it’s about everyone talking and finding a way out of what’s safe, but looking to preserve the music. [and] long term performance. ”

‘Adapt to the new reality’

The protest came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak was asked about the fate of the musicians and suggested they may have to find alternative jobs.

“I can’t claim that everyone can do the exact same job they did when this crisis started,” he told ITV News. “Everyone has to adapt.

“Theater companies adapt and offer different types of shows. Many music lessons are still going on.

“So can things be exactly the way they did?” No. But everyone has to find ways to adapt and adapt to the new reality. ”

Mr Sunak also pointed to the government’s £ 1.57bn bailout program for the arts – although this money is mainly distributed to museums, galleries and venues, rather than individuals.

The first announcement on how the turnaround fund would be distributed was due Monday, October 5, but was delayed by a week for “further due diligence”.

‘Red alert’

Shortly after Tuesday’s protest ended, a debate on the fate of the live events industry took place in the House of Commons.

MEPs took advantage of the meeting to describe the perilous state of the music industry as well as the threat of closure hanging over theaters and venues.

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Venues like Wigmore Hall have opened with social distancing rules in place, but the live music industry is in a perilous position

The debate was provided by Conservative MP Nickie Aiken, whose constituency in the cities of London and Westminster includes a number of concert halls.

She said it was “vital to consider the impact that theaters, concert halls and other cultural attractions have on their communities”, not only financially, but in terms of “the benefits and well-being for the community. community ”.

The debate has won backing from music industry body UK Music, which claims the coronavirus has’ wiped out at least £ 900million of the £ 1.1billion live music was supposed to help the UK economy in 2020 ”.

While some venues, including the O2 Arena in London and The Sage in Gateshead have announced plans to open at reduced capacity, smaller base venues are said to be on “red alert”.

“We have hung our feet on the edge of the cliff for the past six months,” said Mark Davyd, head of the Music Venue Trust, last week.

“We cannot leave communities and artists permanently excluded from live music after this temporary lockdown ends. We need a plan B. We need to reopen every room safely. “

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