Amelia Womack

Green Party of England and Wales deputy leader Amelia Womack this week wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding the introduction of a universal basic income to support arts workers. A universal basic income is a non-means tested form of welfare where everyone receives a payment to support living costs from the government.

The letter was signed by a group of musicians, headed up by The Subways front man Billy Lunn. The letter also has the support of the Musicians Union and a number of high profile bands including The Libertines and Reverend and the Makers. Comedian Rachel Parris has added her backing to the letter as well.

Womack’s letter comes at a time when arts workers have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis with venues closing and festivals cancelled. According to the signatories, a universal basic income would be a “genuine lifeline” for people working in the arts.

The letter read:

Many communities often slip through the cracks of welfare support, especially during Covid19. We believe the best way to ensure all communities have the security needed, including the arts, is to introduce a universal basic income (UBI). A UBI would be a genuine lifeline to those who desperately need it during Coronavirus, as well as to ensure our country keeps creating beyond the pandemic.

Our arts, culture and heritage not only contributes to our economy, but the cultural value it brings to our country, society and communities is priceless.

Speaking on the letter, Womack – who is currently seeking re-election as the Green Party’s deputy leader – said:

It is vitally important that we support our artists, musicians and other performers who have kept spirits up with performances throughout the lockdown, despite often being worried about their own precarious financial situations.

We have a history of undervaluing the entire arts and heritage sectors and those who work in them – both performing and behind the scenes.

The Green Party has been campaigning for many years for a UBI. As the country recovers from the pandemic, we need support for this like never before. But particularly it’s people with insecure incomes who need it the most and this includes people who add value to all our lives with the work they do to entertain and inspire us.

Womack’s comments were echoed by Lunn, who said:

Following an extended period over which grassroots venues and community centres all across the UK have been closing at an unprecedented scale, and all whilst the Conservative government have ostensibly praised UK artists as both economic and cultural global exports (in 2019, the arts sector in the UK contributed £4.5 billion to the economy), the coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves of panic through the entire scope of the artistic community.

He added:

At a time when it is the arts that are getting us all through the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic with our sense of purpose of being intact, we must therefore be there for the arts when they need us the most.

The letter comes after the government announced a bailout package for the arts and culture sector worth £1.57 billion. The government has faced criticism from those who deem the package to be inadequate, and from those who argue it comes too late in the day.

The full list of signatories to the latter calling for a universal basic income is as follows:

  • Amelia Womack – Green Party Deputy Leader
  • The Subways
  • The Charlatans
  • The Musicians Union
  • Rachel Parris
  • Art Brut
  • Jesus Jones
  • Bang Bang Romeo
  • Reverend and the Makers
  • Bernard Butler
  • The Libertines
  • Honeyblood
  • Personal Best
  • Spector
  • Ladybird
  • Potent Whisper
  • Saint Agnes
  • Polly James (Radio X)
  • Lliana Bird (Ex-Radio X/co-founder of Choose Love)
  • Rowena Alice (Riot Diet)
  • Boogaloo Radio
  • Alcopop Records
  • Shame
  • Sean McGowan
  • Lots Holloway
  • Indian Queens
  • Quiet, The Art
  • Punka Club (Bristol)
  • Post Pop Records
  • She Wolf
  • Bobby Long
  • Tiger Mimic
  • The Dodge Brothers (feat. Mark Kermode)
  • Jacquelyn Hynes
  • UBI Lab Network
  • Dave Randall (Faithless/Slovo)
  • Emma Fordham (The Green Gathering festival)

Image credit: Krystyna Haywood – Creative Commons

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