400 freelance musicians are undertaking a protest performance in Parliament Square this afternoon (6 October).

The performance, which is part of the #WeMakeEvents movement, will see the musicians perform a short section of ‘Mars’ from Holst’s The Planets before standing in silence for two minutes.

The 20% of the piece that they will perform represents the maximum 20% support that freelancers receive from the government through the SEISS grant. The two-minute silence represents the 33% of musicians currently not covered by the SEISS grant (MU).

It is being led by director David Hill, with performers including Raphael Wallfisch, Emma Johnson, Tasmin Little and Bill Barkley.

The arts and culture industry contributes £10.8 billion a year directly to the UK economy, with growth in creative industries previously running at five times that of the rest of the economy. Many of these activities have been completely shut down during lockdown, however.

The protesters are calling for the Government “to recognise that freelance musicians are an economic asset. It is essential they invest in freelancers so that they can continue to support the intricate network of businesses that rely on arts and events for their footfall.”

They are also calling for “sector-specific support to reopen, including a subsidised concert ticket scheme while social distancing restrictions remain, and Government-backed insurance for live events and theatre performances.”

Their final demand is for “targeted support for those skilled workforces forced to remain closed by Covid restrictions, so that freelance musicians are still there to bring music to everyone when this is over.”

The performers have been lent support by industry figures including Jools Holland, Emily Eavis and the Musicians Union.

Jools Holland commented: “I fully support these wonderful musicians in their actions. They are part of an industry devastated by this crisis.  Most importantly they bring such joy to our spirits, our country and our world.   Post-apocalyptic scenes are often portrayed in fiction as places where there are no leaves on trees and the birds don’t sing.  If we don’t support our musicians now, who find it impossible to work, I fear we are all taking a step closer to that nightmare world.”

Picture courtesy of @LetMusicLiveUK