Author: Luke Alcott
On 9 September, the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) met to confirm Giles Watling MP as its Chair. Mr Watling took over as Acting Chair of the group after Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP left the position to become Minister for Media and Data within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
Mr Watling has a long interest in the creative industries with a background in the performing arts, primarily as an actor. He has also run theatres, produced shows, has written for film and television and has been a director for the commercial touring circuit. In Parliament, he continues to champion the arts and joined the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group to ensure writers’ rights are recognised and rewarded. Before becoming its Chair, Mr Watling took a key role in the APWG inquiry into authors’ earnings; the report of which urged the Government to establish a ‘Creators’ Council’, provide ongoing support for the creative industries upon withdrawal from the European Union and to support high-street booksellers.
Looking at the priorities for the group, Mr Watling said:
“Our inquiry into authors’ earnings showed that the UK’s excellent creators faced a difficult situation even before the impact of COVID-19, which is expected to have a major effect on our creative industries. We made suggestions to the Government that were necessary then and we must see where these measures are urgently needed to ensure our creators and creative industries can continue to succeed through these difficult times. We also hope to look at opportunities to ensure the interests of authors are represented across the country. Too often opportunities in the creative industries are tied to London even though creative talent is found across the country and as it stands, too many communities are left out and opportunities are missed.
I have been involved with this group for some time, and I am pleased to have been confirmed as Chair. This is a well-supported and established group in Parliament, that does some excellent work. I will continue to push the Government on support for writers and the wider creative arts.”
Following on from earlier communications, a joint letter has been sent from twelve creator organisations urging the Government to establish a “Creators Council”.
As part of its ongoing inquiry, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has released its Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report.
Among other measures this report calls for the establishment of a Creators Council. The APWG called for a Creators Council to be established in Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow, its report into authors earnings.
Authors organisations have welcomed the DCMS Select Committee report.
Commenting on the DCMS Select Committee report, ALCS Deputy Chief Executive Barbara Hayes said:
“We are very pleased to see that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has included the establishment of a ‘Creators Council’ in its recommendations to Government. A ‘Creators Council’ would be an important channel to ensure the Government hears from the UK’s brilliant creators and their representatives and draws on their experience to ensure good policy for our culture and creative industries.
Before the pandemic, studies had shown authors’ incomes are in decline, and evidence shows declining incomes would harm the variety and diversity of works created across our country. It is clear from the evidence presented so far that the pandemic could make this situation even more severe, so we welcome the committee’s calls for targeted measures to support the UK’s creative community. With better policy, we can ensure the UK’s authors are fairly rewarded for their contribution to society.”
Writers Guild of Great Britain General Secretary Ellie Peers said:
“The bleak picture that this report paints comes as no surprise – since the earliest days of lockdown our members have been telling us about the devastating effect of the Covid-19 lockdown on their income and livelihoods.
“We are pleased to see that DCMSC has listened to WGGB, our sister trade unions and other industry bodies, in some of its key recommendations to Government, and we welcome the proposed extension and expansion of SEISS to ensure no creative is left behind; a Creators Council to represent the freelance creative workforce at Government level via their creative trade unions and other member organisations; a proper roadmap for the reopening of arts venues; and fiscal measures such as tax relief and VAT exemptions to support the theatre sector, whose lights went dark almost overnight with little notice or indication of how they might come back on again.
“We look forward to working with Government on the detail of all these proposals. We will continue to campaign for the establishment of a New Commissions Fund in theatre – even when venues reopen and postponed productions are performed. A dedicated commissions fund is needed now to enable theatres/producers across the UK, who are likely to have become more risk averse, to continue to commission new, original work from writers.”
Regarding its submission to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry, Society of Authors Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said:
“This is another really detailed report addressing the needs of publishing, theatre, music and film as we move towards what we all hope will be a period of sustained economic recovery.
“As further details of trade talks with the EU, Australia and the US emerge, I am pleased to see us renew calls for maintenance of world-leading intellectual property standards so that creative professionals can earn a proper living from their work.
“I hope that MPs of all parties will put pressure on the Government to support our cultural and creative industries, and to come forward with further details of how it intends to divide up its £1.57 bn stimulus package as soon as possible.
“I also hope that we can continue to work with ALCS and others in pushing for the Government to be bold in its Autumn spending review so that any ongoing needs across the cultural and creative industries – and among the freelance and self-employed creatives who are so vital to them support – are meaningfully addressed.”