Talking writers’ rights at Westminster

By WGGB Chair Gail Renard

WGGB has been in overdrive, working hard to secure writers’ rights during Brexit. This last fortnight we’ve been to the Houses of Parliament three times, lobbying, meeting and making writers’ voices heard.

The creative Industries are worth £84 billion annually to the UK and growing. Amongst other things, we’re asking for officials from the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport) to be seconded to the Department for Exiting the European Union to protect our interests.

If EU funding for the creative industries is removed, we want the Government to ring fence money to protect our industry in the same way that they will do so for science, farming and Nissan. We want our co-pros, intellectual property and copyright protected – and more. Our message is getting across.

On Tuesday this week (13 December 2016) the WGGB joined our sister unions, Equity and the MU (Musicians’ Union), for our annual Performers’ Alliance Christmas get-together. It was a chance to speak informally with MPs, Lords and Baronesses (to be followed up in the New Year) and also to hear what politicians have to say.

In his speech, Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson talked about how “our arts – writing, music, acting, storytelling – are soft power around the world and even more important in the post-Brexit era.”

Watson called for equal opportunities in the creative industries. He wanted to talk about class. Where you live, and if you have family who are able to support you, can make a difference to whether or not you get a foothold in the arts. Watson praised former WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett for his tireless work in securing new streams of income for writers from the online world. Watson also praised our new Acting General Secretary, Ellie Peers, for getting to grips with new issues such as Brexit.

We also heard from Culture Minsiter Matt Hancock who said, “Britain’s arts will be buttering the bread of post-Brexit Britain. The arts also have a crucial role in defining Britain.” Hancock wants to make sure that it’s not only this generation that is successful, but also the next. He wants to ensure the creative arts stay part of the educational system.

The final words came from the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. He called for town planning to factor in rehearsal and performing spaces in future so that all people, no matter where they come from, can learn their craft. The arts must be accessible to all.

“We don’t live by bread alone,” he said. “We live by bread and roses.”

Photo of Big Ben: Reece Lipman @ Chocolate Films, all other photos: Joanna Dudderidge