Britain’s creative industries are heading towards a "cultural catastrophe" as a result of the coronavirus crisis, research claims, with losses of £1.4 billion a week this year and more than 400,000 jobs also under threat.
It is leaving sectors such as theatre on the brink of devastation, according to the Creative Industries Federation.
The industry membership body commissioned research by Oxford Economics into the toll Covid-19 will take on the sector.
Published today (June 17), the research projects a revenue drop of £74 billion for the creative industries in 2020, which equates to a loss of £1.4 billion every week.
Theatre alone is expected to lose £3 billion in revenue this year – a 61% decrease – with estimates warning that 26% of permanent jobs, around 12,000, could be lost. This figure will be considerably higher when losses affecting the freelance workforce are taken into account.
Research now suggests that in total, 406,000 permanent creative roles and freelance jobs could be lost as the country emerges from the pandemic, while Oxford Economics has also predicted that the creative industries will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy.
The creative sector in the UK was previously growing at five times the rate of the UK economy, employing more than two million people.
Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the 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.
"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."
The impact of Covid-19 on theatre specifically has been "immediate and devastating", Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said.
"With every UK venue now closed, Covid-19 has removed the sector’s trading income entirely at a stroke and thrown its business model into crisis. In order to rescue the performing arts sector, we call on government to: sustain the workforce; catalyse the recovery; and review insurance and liability policies to ensure this valuable asset is protected and enhanced for the future. We hope this report goes some way to helping this happen," he added.
As part of the research, Oxford Economics and the CIF surveyed 2,000 creative businesses and freelancers, three-quarters of which predicted their annual turnover will fall by more than 50% in 2020.
Meanwhile, 38% said they thought their turnover would decrease by more than 75%, and among the freelance workforce this number was higher, at 42%.
The overall impact on employment will be felt twice as hard by creative freelancers than by permanent staff, the report says, reflecting the sector’s high proportion of self-employed workers.
Regionally, while London is likely to experience the highest drop in GVA generated by the creative industries, other areas of the UK are more likely to feel greater impact, with four out of 10 creative jobs at risk in the West Midlands, and a third under threat in the North West and South West.
Norbury said the need for a cultural renewal fund from government was becoming ever more urgent, in order to support the creative workforce, who will be hit hardest.
"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," she said.