Economics Museums United Kingdom

Human chain of protesters at London’s National Gallery

Demonstrators aim to draw attention to budget cuts to culture and zero-hours contracts for museum employees

The human chain of protesters in front of London's National Gallery

Protesters plan to form a human chain in front of the National Gallery, London, today 18 September to draw attention to the effects of public funding cuts to the arts. Demonstrators planning to gather in Trafalgar Square include museum workers, actors, musicians and writers. Organised by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), Equity, which represents actors, the Musicians Union and the Writers Guild among others, the demonstration aims to draw attention to the consequences of the millions of pounds cut from cultural funding by national government and local authorities across England over the past few years.

National museums have seen their budgets cut by more than 15%, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports by 33%, and local authorities have cut around £124m from their cultural budgets since 2010. One high-profile casualty is a five-year-old, £72m arts centre in West Bromwich in the Midlands of England. Called The Public, it is due to close in November after the local authority decided in August to withdraw its funding.

Among the issues the PCS is campaigning against is the way the cuts have led to an increase in the use of controversial zero-hours contracts by museums, including the National Gallery, Tate, British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum. The contracts do not guarantee minimum hours, leaving workers financially insecure (see the print or digital edition of our September issue, p3, for a full report on zero-hours contracts at museums).

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