Despite the government promising a £1.57 billion rescue package to save the arts industries in the United Kingdom, venues are still closing down, promoters are out of work and musicians are being told to retrain. Well, if it was that simple then people wouldn’t be stuck in dead-end jobs they hate, would they? “I took that government career survey the other day for a laugh after Rishi Sunak dropped the ‘retrain’ clanger. it suggested ‘Actor’. I nearly spat my coffee out” says ‘Claire Miskimmin’, bass player for Belfast band, New Pagans, who recently scored Steve Lamacq’s ‘Record Of The Week’ on BBC 6 Radio.

It’s tough to be a mother and hold a career down in any industry
- Claire Miskimmin

The ‘retrain’ fiasco has received enormous backlash from the creative industries, and rightly so. Whilst bankers will no doubt continue to receive their bonuses, and MP’s are set for a £3000 pay-rise, musicians seems to be receiving zero support whilst their tours are cancelled and albums are released are set back, and instead, are being told to retrain for positions such as ‘Actor’, ‘Entertainer’, ‘Sports Person’, ‘Copy Editor’ and even ‘Bingo Caller’. The irony is, most creative people that take the survey will no doubt be told to retrain for another creative position due to the fact their skills have been developed for the creative industry. Not to mention the fact that to retrain you either need to find £30K to go back to University or find an employer willing to take a risk on someone with zero interest in the position on offer. As well as the employer spending thousands to train them, a model that isn’t economically viable in any way shape or form.

“This is such a bizarre time we are living through, it's hard to see the world as anything but chaotic and genuinely scary right now,” says Claire. “We have to just believe that this will get better at some point. Creating music is an amazing outlet to pour your anger and emotions into and we’ve all got plenty of those at the minute, it's therapeutic.” Music is such a powerful outlet for so many people. Not only do musicians that suffer from mental health use this outlet to fight off depression and other issues, but fans also rely on this experience to escape the day-to-day grind of having to deal with a totally incompetant government, as well as everything else currently going on around the globe. People are losing their jobs and some are obviously suffering more than others. So how are you supposed to hold down a career in the music industry when the industry is dead and you have zero support from your government?

New Pagans are a highly politically charged band and they have a lot to say about the current state of the music industry. “I’d like to see artists paid fairly for their work,” Claire explains. “ Plain and simple it’s an absolute scandal. We were shafted before this pandemic and with zero help for the arts we are still being shafted.” Not only do New Pagans have to deal with the fallout of being musicians during a pandemic, they also face more unique challenges when it comes to the music industry. “It’s tough to be a mother and hold a career down in any industry I'm sure, but I feel like it’s just not talked about in music.” A study into the American entertainment industry, led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith in 2019, analysed the 700 top songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018 and the results are not surprising. Across the three creative roles highlighted in the study, women make up 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2.1 percent of producers. Claire says, “As if being a mother is somehow the antithesis of ‘Rock n Roll’ or completely at odds with this world.” Despite movements such as METOO, it seems we still have a long way to go before we truly see equality throughout all industries, especially across the arts where music is concerned.

New Pagans are driven by political and social issues, some of which are reflected in their latest video for ‘YELLOW ROOM’. "Set in the stunning local surroundings of Northern Ireland, we tried to evoke a sense of dread and isolation in the expanse of nature. In stifling a woman's mind we take away her liberty, as in the novel the song is based on - 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. It's about the facade and the masks we wear, but break the surface and we find our protagonist's strength. She cuts herself free and is set adrift,” explains New Pagans singer, Lyndsey. Claire says, “For ‘Yellow Room’ we braved a pretty cold Irish Sea to capture a woman adrift in this vast expanse, the weightless world below the surface and the world above. Lyndsey’s stunning embroidery features heavily in this one, her mask is really unsettling.”

New Pagans will be releasing a full album in 2021, along with a nationwide tour.

Author Bio: AC Speed

Senior Editor

I started my career as a music journalist in 2013 and have been involved in the music industry as a touring musician, studio engineer and artist consultant since 2002, as well as previously being a signed artist. My passion for delivering high quality, informative music-related news is a daily driving force behind the content I create. Also a huge gaming nerd! Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in Sweden. Skål!


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