Writers are an integral part of the creative industries, which contribute a staggering £36 billion a year to the UK economy, attracting investment and tourism, creating jobs and raising tax revenues to fund public services. We generate much of the material that drives these industries, yet many of us struggle to survive.
TV and film writers are often expected to do a lot of work on spec by companies who don’t prioritise development funding; if these projects don’t come to fruition they don’t get paid. Meanwhile, book authors have seen their earnings eroded drastically in recent years due to the discounting of book prices by large internet and chain retailers, engendering consumer expectations of free or cheap content.
This situation means that many writers can’t earn a living and have to do it in their spare time whilst doing other jobs. They are effectively deficit funding the industries they serve. The image of the artist starving in a garret is a deplorable cliche and should not be encouraged. Rare cases of blockbuster success, such as Fifty Shades of Gray, distort public perceptions of the writing profession, fuelled by our tabloid culture. But these examples are the exception, not the rule.
So how can writers be expected to produce their best work, when they are being squeezed out of existence? If, as this government has been saying, the creative industries are so important to the nation’s cultural, economic and social health, it should be genuinely enabling its practitioners to do their job properly by ensuring they are properly paid.
Creative talent, both new and established, should be nurtured, with proper support and funding , not cuts to arts budgets.Such a move would be good for our society and economy.
Britain needs writers if it is to continue to punch above its weight on the cultural stage. That’s why writers need a pay rise.