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THE GREAT COMEBACK

14/08/2022

We have been relatively quiet for the past year: we are a small group of people who have been creatively and politically busy during this time. After we last spoke to you, a war broke out, the prime minister resigned, and protests, strikes and acts of political turmoil proliferated. You are not alone if you feel like the world has turned upside down. We have been keeping up to date with the changing consciousness, trying to gauge the mood and feelings of workers.


Reviewing the Situation

We have had a world-changing pandemic which still still has high transmission rates and may become a problem for world leaders in the foreseeable future. Inflation is at catastrophic levels with the Bank of England now warning that UK inflation is expected to hit thirteen per cent (https://www.ft.com/content/ae77ad08-3596-407f-ab4b-346aa11610b5 ). BoE also announced that the country will fall into a recession by the end of this year. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting every worker across the country. Annual energy bills are forecasted to sore above £5,000. The climate crisis is also coming to a head. Europe is on fire with heatwaves spreading across the whole continent. Climate change and its challenges will inevitably affect consumer prices, whilst the bosses will keep their pursuit of profits as their highest priority.

However, there has been a shift in the public consciousness. People are questioning how bosses and big businesses treat workers. This summer of strikes organised by the RMT, ASLEF, UNITE and other unions have shown that. The cost-of-living crisis has pushed Amazon workers to leave the shop floor and walk out in protest over low pay and precarious employment conditions. The train strikes have made workers question their conditions and gained the support of 45% of the public (https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/uk-news/mick-lynch-rmt-rail-strike-poll-b2113181.html ). There is an ever-growing discontent among people regarding their jobs and working conditions, and they are now beginning to realise that change is needed. Further are now being discussed with nurses, teachers, and post-office workers all threatening to strike. The latter has already gone on strike and will continue in a coordinated strike with BT Openreach workers.


Political Fronts Reflects Industrial Ones


Boris Johnson is no longer our prime minister. The cheers of joy from the liberal-pundit class have been overwhelming, up until they realised that the current Tory leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss offers no true alternative to the previous leader. The Tory party has become a broken, ancient relic of a bygone era. On the other hand, the Labour Party has not truly offered enough to solve the looming economic crisis. They have committed to the nationalisation of the railways, freezing payments for higher energy bills and calls for urgent action to support the culture sector. With pressure from both the industrial and political front, a move toward a progressive programme is due to happen.



Manifestation Of Politics in our Culture 


Our lives revolve around politics, whether we choose to see it or not. In past articles, we have criticised the bosses who have a stranglehold on the arts. Our criticisms still stand firm today. Andrew Llyod Webber sacked his staff as he struggled to make profits when closing his musical production of Cinderella. He suggested that it was a “costly mistake”. Costly mistakes do not vouch for greed, Mr Webber. Webber sacked his staff without official notice, as the cast and crew found out through social media channels that the production was closing. Like all the other theatre producers, Webber has ridden the wave of exploitation suffered by workers for far too long.

Then, what have the unions been doing for their workers? We fully support any challenge by the unions to the bosses of SOLT (Society of London Theatre). SOLT represents the most insidious types of producers and directors, and SOLT will only act when their profits are in danger. However, the unions have struggled to mobilise the workforce and have been stuck in petty pay negotiations that only seek to reverse the cuts made during the pandemic. BECTU has argued that there was a “marked improvement” in reversing COVID-19, but SOLT will continue not to pay extra time on a Sunday until October. BECTU and Equity should not be trying to score small ‘victories’. These unions should be coordinating with others for a national strike. Workers in the arts are not just asking for slightly better pay. They want pay that can cover the cost of their rent, mortgages, bills and food; demand better democratisation of the workplace; and want security in their job. There should be no more time for ‘halfway’. BECTU and Equity must come together and organise strikes to demand better pay and conditions in the workplace.


The Role Of Art-Rising 

Art-Rising does not have a force of people working for it. We want to achieve that someday. We want to report and discuss stories that matter to ordinary workers. We want to write reviews and other pieces of work that matter to you. We want YOU to also write for us. Any piece of TV, film, exhibition, or theatre. Review it for us. You can send them in at engage@art-rising.com.

We also want to create our own art and we are working on that. In the meantime, subscribe to the newsletter and enjoy all our contributions. We will report more on the crisis of the arts and how to fix it in the future.