Performers and writers to form “human chain” in protest against arts cuts

Equity assistant general secretary Stephen Spence
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Performers, writers and musicians will come together to form a “human chain” in front of the National Gallery as part of a protest against government cuts to the arts.

The human chain will be formed on September 18 and is being organised by Lost Arts, an affiliation of eight unions including Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Lost Arts – which tracks the losses that have come about because of budget reductions –  said the chain is being organised because the “government continues to make cuts to arts and culture and ignore its true value”. The most recent comprehensive spending review saw the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s arts budget reduced by 5%. Lost Arts claims that DCMS’s overall budget has been cut by more than a third since 2010 and also expresses concern about a £124 million cut in 2013/14 to local authorities’ spend on culture.

“Access to arts and culture is not a luxury, it’s a human right. We are forming a human chain in front of the National Gallery in London to call on the government to protect funding for arts and culture,” Lost Arts states.

Equity assistant general secretary Stephen Spence, who will speak at the event, said: “Equity’s involvement is part of our campaign to highlight the damage the coalition’s austerity agenda is having on the arts which is one of the UK’s success stories and if properly supported can make a huge contribution towards both social and economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, Bernie Corbett, general secretary of the Writers’ Guild, said union staff and members will be taking part “to emphasise” that “we do not just condemn cuts one day and forget them the next”.

“We will have a long memory and we will expect the next government to restore arts spending – to the benefit of a colossal industry, its workers, and the millions of tourists who come here to visit our galleries and museums and experience our theatre shows. Every pound of subsidy for culture and the arts generates several pounds into the UK economy, so the government’s cuts are a self-inflicted wound,” he said.

A human chain in the industry has previously been used by the now defunct Save London's Theatres Campaign, which held a 72-hour vigil at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the 70s to protect it from closure. This saw actors form a human chain to prevent it from being knocked down.