Britain is facing an irreversible “cultural catastrophe” with a projected £74bn drop in revenue for creative industries and the loss of 400,000 jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Creative Industries Federation commissioned the global forecaster Oxford Economics to research the economic impact of Covid-19 on industries including music, theatre, film, TV, fashion, publishing, architecture, museums and galleries.
The research suggests a drop in revenues equating to £1.4bn a week over a year and the loss of around one in five creative jobs. The sector is expected to be hit twice as hard as the wider UK economy.
Caroline Norbury, the federation’s chief executive, said creative and cultural organisations employed millions, brought communities together and were needed now more than ever.
“Our creative industries have been one of the UK’s biggest success stories but what today’s report makes clear is that without additional support we are heading for a cultural catastrophe,” she said.
“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.”
Norbury said the UK urgently needed a cultural renewal fund to help industries that will be the last to return to work, businesses that cannot operate fully owing to physical distancing, and creative professionals who continue to fall through gaps in government support measures.
Before the lockdown, the UK’s creative sector was growing at five times the rate of the wider economy and employed more than 2 million people. In 2018 it contributed £111.7bn to the economy – more than the automative, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined, according to the federation.
Norbury said creative industries were at the heart of the UK’s soft power. “These are the industries of the future: highly innovative, resistant to automation and integral to our cultural identity. We’re about to need them more than ever.”
The Oxford Economics report includes a raft of grim statistics across different sectors and regions. Its predictions include:
The creative industries GVA (gross value added) will fall by £29bn, down 25%, and revenues will drop by £74bn, or 30%.
Despite the job retention scheme, 119,000 permanent workers will be made redundant by the end of the year. An estimated 287,000 freelance roles will also be terminated.
The music industry, hit hard by the collapse in live music and performing, could lose at least £3bn in GVA, or 50% of the total, and 114,000 jobs, or 60% of the total.
Theatres face a £3bn revenue loss (61%) and the loss of 12,000 jobs (26%). The figures do not take into account the reluctance of audiences to return to venues.
The film, TV, radio and photography sectors face a loss of £36bn in revenue (57%), with 102,000 jobs at risk (42%).
Museums and galleries could lose £743m in revenue (9%) and 4,000 jobs (5%). The report says the impact would be mitigated by venues being able to open in July with physical distancing measures in place.
London is projected to experience the biggest drop in creative industries GVA with a £14.6bn (25%) fall. In relative terms, Scotland and north-east England will be hit hardest, with GVA decreases of 39% (£1.7bn) and 37% (£400m) respectively.
The call for targeted government investment in the creative industries was echoed by other industry leaders and trade unions.
Philippa Childs, the head of the union Bectu which represents media and entertainment workers, said the scale of the devastation revealed in the figures was terrifying.
“The creativity that fuels this outstanding sector of the economy comes from people who have dedicated themselves to the film, theatre, TV, cinema and live events industries. They are the backbone of this sector and any plans to implement a cultural renewal fund must ensure that they are provided for,” Childs said.
Tom Kiehl, the acting CEO of UK Music, said coronavirus had turned musicians’ worlds upside down. “The music industry is resilient, but this means knowing when to ask for help. We need to restart our economy, help to preserve jobs and help to maintain the UK’s fundamental position as a net exporter of music across the rest of the world,” he said.
The creative industries are waiting to see if the UK follows Germany, France and others by providing investment. The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said last week: “I am not going to stand by and see our world-leading position in arts and culture destroyed. Of course I want to get the money flowing. I am not going to let anyone down.”