The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), the trade union representing writers for theatre, TV, film, radio, books, poetry, comedy, animation and videogames, has conducted a cost of living survey amongst its members.
Its findings show that 55% of writers surveyed said that rising energy and food costs throughout 2022 were impacting on their ability to sustain a writing career, severely impacting livelihoods, and the cultural industries which depend upon their skills.
The survey of more than 250 writers found that as well as energy and food bills, other factors that impacted their ability to engage in writing work included having less time to work as a writer, or apply for funding, development schemes or other opportunities.
67% of those surveyed reported having to rely on their savings in order to manage day-to-day expenditure, while 37% said they had to rely on their partners’ earnings. More than 70% respondents had earned £18,000 or less for their writing work in the last financial year.
The majority (over 80%) said they were freelance writers, highlighting the precarious nature of employment for playwrights, screenwriters, authors, audio dramatists and videogames writers that the union represents.
The survey also highlighted an industry-wide dearth of opportunity and an increase in poor practice. Several respondents highlighted how real wages were not rising with inflation as the creative industries continued to experience the dual shocks of Brexit and Covid. There were many reports of late payments, shrinking production budgets and reduced audience sizes.
Writers across theatre, TV, film, audio, books and videogames reported feeling worried about how cost-of-living increases would affect the creative industries, with many fearing that shrinking demand amongst audiences and consumers would force organisations to close. Independent videogame studios, theatres, publishers and screen production companies were cited by many respondents as being particularly at risk.
WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said, “After living through the dual impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, writers are now having to face a severe cost-of-living crisis, as our new survey shows. The UK faces a series loss of writing talent, and this risks pulling the rug from under our world-beating cultural industries, which contribute over £100 billion to our economy and enjoy an enviable global profile. We will be working with our industry partners to address the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on writers, we will continue to campaign and lobby, and we will defend our members against poor practice wherever we find it.”