One Direction star tackles plight of roadies left unemployed by coronavirus | The music

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As venues and arts organizations celebrated their government grants meant to keep them afloat until next spring, touring crews were among those counting the cost of the pandemic.One Direction’s Niall Horan should have been in Warsaw and Berlin this week for his Nice To Meet Ya tour, but the Covid-19 crisis saw his concerts canceled and his road crew with no income they depended on.

It’s a story that has been repeated throughout the entertainment industry and Horan told The Guardian that tour crews and roadies have been overlooked by the government while urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to say something about their fate.

He said: “When you think of Britain and the British Isles, you think of fashion, music and the arts and it’s just a completely forgotten industry in a time of need. Hard-working people across the country have been completely left behind.

“These guys come from across the country with families and mortgages and don’t qualify for time off… So they’re literally left behind by bad governance.

He added that Sunak had to “stand up in the House of Commons and say something” about the plight of touring crews because it was such a crucial industry in the UK.

Horan is hosting a one-time show that will be broadcast live at the Royal Albert Hall on November 7, with all concert profits shared between his team and the new We Need Crew Difficulty Fund for Touring Musical Teams.

Tour teams are made up of people with a long list of skills and professions, from lighting and sound technicians and tour directors to merchandise vendors and coach drivers. They are part of the UK’s live events worker economy, which is made up of around 1 million workers and, according to the British Visits and Events Partnership, is worth around £ 29 billion.

But during the pandemic, many had to look elsewhere for money to support themselves. Most are self-employed and work with short-term artists for a particular tour or production. So if an artist is not performing, he is not making money.

Many have turned to programs like the Self-Employment Income Assistance Program (SEISS), used savings, applied for universal credit, or left the industry to seek employment elsewhere.

Royal Albert Hall Managing Director Craig Hassall has been one of the loudest cultural voices in the pandemic, urging the government to step in and provide financial support to arts organizations that are generally not part of their structures. funding.

One of the problems for road crews is that they don’t have recognizable lawyers, which is why Horan – as a member of one of the biggest boy groups in the world – said that he had a duty to express himself. “They are just ordinary people who have no voice; so we have to be their voice, ”said Horan. “And if there was a time when our crews needed support, it’s absolutely now.

Horan is one of a growing number of voices advocating for touring crews. The #LetTheMusicPlay campaign was launched in August, with industry figures demanding that the government protect the future of live crews.

Other artists offered direct support. New Order is selling t-shirts to raise money for its road team, while Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark (OMD) is hosting a concert to benefit its team on October 24 that will be streaming and have a small, socially distant audience. .

Horan said the crews were like families and the pandemic had hit his team hard. Many have had to turn to other jobs, with crew members taking jobs on construction sites and in supermarkets to pay bills and cover mortgages or rent. “For an industry that makes billions for the UK, being left behind is absolutely beyond me. I can’t understand, ”he said.

With no specific government support for touring crews on the horizon, concerts like the ones Horan and OMD are putting on offer a lifeline for roadies who he says would be hard to replace if they left the world. industry. “As much as we cannot [tour] without the fans we certainly can’t do it without the crews, ”he said. “I certainly can’t put on a stage.”

OMD and New Order echoed those sentiments, saying that if touring crews left the industry and retrained there would be no concerts when the restrictions were lifted.

Famous former roadies include Noel Gallagher, who worked for the Inspiral Carpets before joining Oasis, while Lemmy Kilmister was on Jimi Hendrix’s tour team before his career with Motorhead and Hawkwind.

A spokesperson for the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are working hard to support our world-class performing arts and live events sector through difficult times. . We have already announced hundreds of millions of pounds in support of our £ 1.57 billion Culture Stimulus Fund, which will stabilize sites across the country and help them plan for the future to protect jobs and ensure that work continues to flow to freelancers. Thousands of more rewards will be handed out in the days and weeks to come. “

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