Sunak denies telling artists to retrain
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has denied suggesting artists should look for “new opportunities” following as storm of criticism after remarks made on ITV News on Monday.
“I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis” he said, and when pressed on whether musicians, artists and actors should seek new careers he added, “Can things happen in exactly the same way as they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality”.
The comments were seized up0n by critics. “There you have it” Labour MP Pat McFadden tweeted. “Govt throws culture - an area where the U.K. has real global influence - under the bus”, while television comedian Sue Perkins wrote: “The arts contributes in the region of 100 billion a year to our economy. The people who work in it have already trained long and hard, thank you. This is shameful.”
But Sunak has today come back on Twitter. "To people concerned by inaccurate reports that I told musicians to retrain... here’s the transcript. I did not say it and I do not think it. Musicians don't need to retrain. When it's safe, venues need to reopen. That's why we've created a £1.57bn package to protect the arts".
The transcript shows the ITV interviwer saying : "We are a country that created so many fabulous musicians and artists and actors. An you're effectively saying, look, we know it's hard but maybe go and get another job".
It shows Sunak responding, verbatim: "I think probably you're not being quite right and that there is no work available for everyone at all. I mean actually, funnily enough, as in all walks to life, everyone's having to adapt. So, I'm getting emails and seeing how theatre companies are adapting and putting on different types of performance.
It is possible to do theatrical performances online as well, and for people to engage with them that way and for new business models to ermine. Plenty of music lessons are still carrying on, the same thing happens in my household and elsewhere.
So, yes, can things happen in exactly the way that they did? No, but everyone is having to find ways to ad apt and adjust to the new reality and that's what we all have to do. And that'll why were allowing that to happen, but also providing new opportunity for people if that's the right vehicle for them."
The £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund was announced in July and although some grants have been made via Arts Council England, the release of details of how most grants and loans from it would be allocated has been delayed by “the complexity and volume of applications”. The fund has already been criticised for not taking into account freelance end self-employed arts workers, more than 70% of the cultural workforce.