Skip to main content

16th October 2020

Rishi Sunak, I’ll retrain when you do

Deputy music editor Reece Ritchie criticises the Conservative government’s attitudes towards creatives and defends their importance
Rishi Sunak, I’ll retrain when you do
Photo: Rishi Sunak , current Chancellor of the Exchequer. Chris McAndrew @ Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the ITV News Twitter account stated that ‘superhero’ Rishi Sunak, whilst discussing the music sector and other creative industries, suggested those currently without viable occupations should “adapt for employment”.

Whilst the government claimed this as commentary on the entire job climate, it sparked anger across the music industry. Whether referring to musicians or not, these comments were incredibly ironic coming from a man about to receive a substantial pay rise.

You then must ask – why did the music industry so easily believe that the ‘misquoted’ Chancellor suggested “musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs”?

The government are happy to pat themselves on the back and boast the “£1.57 billion rescue package” that they’ve announced. Across the sector, however, creators, staff, and venue owners are not confident that they’ll see any benefit, especially at an individual level.

The UK music report states that the music industry contributed “£5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018”, proving its value to the government’s precious GDP. The Chancellor is obviously aware of this, so better to direct him towards what music means to the UK, culturally and societally.

Every day, human beings consume media: whilst working, travelling, at home, and even more so during the pandemic that hurt the creative industries so badly.  Without music and film, I’m sure we’re all aware of how much more difficult isolation would’ve been. Robbie Beale, a student at the University of Manchester, put it best when he said “Music has given heart and soul to a heartless and soulless year.”

Olive Tree Photo: Reece Ritchie @ The Mancunion
Photo: Oliver Tree at Manchester Academy 2, by Reece Ritchie @ The Mancunion

I sit writing this on the twelfth day of my isolation period, locked inside a student accommodation building. I’m only here because I was promised I would be able to attend my tutorials in person this semester.

With tutorials now cancelled, music is the window inside my head that allows me to escape. Between learning to play ‘Coffee’ by Beabadoobee on guitar, to re-experiencing Van Halen after the sad passing of Eddie – music has been the strong hand that has prevented me from spiralling alongside my flatmates.

I doubt I’d have come to university if it wasn’t for the allure of venues like The Deaf Institute, The Peer Hat and Satan’s Hollow. but you don’t have to take the value of music towards mental health from me.

Other students at the University of Manchester, such as the Mancunion’s music editor Tilda Gratton and science advisor Blake Crompton, are also of the opinion that music and the creative sector are essential. Tilda said: “Music is so much more than a hobby to pass the time. It’s the reason I get out of bed every morning,” and Blake eloquently stated: music “allows the mechanics of the soul to flourish.”

These quotes may come across as no more than emotional students, but I promise the Chancellor that these feelings are echoed. Reiterated by every musician, venue owner, fan, guitar tech, producer, manager, and roadie across the country, to name a fraction of those affected by the lack of support.

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve had a very strong feeling that the government have been running the country according to what they think will be popular and guarantee them votes, rather than what would protect the economy and save lives.

Through the Chancellor’s comments, the government definitely suggests those without ‘viable’ jobs should retrain. However, they do not suggest what to retrain to, or how. Without investment into retraining resources, these are empty and hollow words. Perhaps the government could find another few billion pounds of tax payer funds for another of their friends to set a program up on Excel 2003.

I’m well aware that the music industry certainly isn’t this government’s favourite brick in the wall of society. I’d like to remind them that if one brick should fall, it leaves a hole rendering the wall unfit for purpose.

I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that the second doors open for the first non-socially distanced gig – I’ll be there. More than that, I’ll be ordering records, t-shirts and doing my best to support the creators I love through this pandemic. All without being asked to, but I shouldn’t have to be.

Mae Muller sings
Photo: An action shot of Mae Muller at Deaf Institute, by Reece Ritchie @ The Mancunion

As soon as the pandemic allows, the music industry will be booming again. There is nothing to suggest otherwise, unless, of course, the government believes this pandemic will last forever.

People in the industry need support, and they need it now. Through no fault of their own, they have lost all income. This being said, they are still valid. Moreover, they are human beings. They don’t deserve to be subjected to the stress inflicted by the lack of safety net provided for them.

They need furlough on an individual level, and not just a ‘fund for the arts’. I won’t settle for less than recognition for sector specific support. To the government as a whole – these are your constituents. It’s disgusting for you to devalue their work and efforts as you have.

The only thing I can thank the government for throughout this whole pandemic is proving that meritocracy doesn’t exist.

Yours, a fan of the unviable.

Reece Ritchie

Reece Ritchie

Reece is the Mancunion’s Music Editor, leading the team covering Manchester’s music scene and beyond. He is also an editor at Music Is To Blame, an independent music publications and has written words for WHATWESPEW the Manchester punk collective.Now Head Rep for the record label Scruff of the Neck and the host of The Northwest Emo Show he continues to deliver articles on the very best music Manchester and the UK has to offer. He also features his own photography within his articles, working with the likes of Slowthai, Enter Shikari and Wargasm.

More Coverage

We need to politicise mental health

A rising number of people in Britain are on antidepressants. Your risk of mental illness correlates with how young, how poor and how socially-disadvantaged you are. Why is this and what should we do about it?

No-sex tenancy clauses are a landlord’s newest weapon amid the housing crisis

Imagine not being able to have sex in your house. It might become the reality under a ‘no-sex tenancy clause’

Lower entry requirements for international students? An international student’s perspective

Universities have been accused of offering international students lower entry grade requirements, but what does this reveal about our higher education institutions, and how does it affect the way international students are viewed?

Graduation looms. Please don’t send me out into the big bad world

With the curtain closing on my student days, I’m anxiously anticipating life after graduation – and I’m not handling it well